WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump claimed Monday he was "ready to make a deal" protecting hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, as lawmakers missed an initial deadline for resolving their fate.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that shields nearly 700,000 of the so-called Dreamers from deportation was supposed to expire on March 5, 6 months after Trump announced he was ending it.
But a US District Court judge issued a nationwide injunction that requires the government to allow recipients to renew their permits to live and work in the country, and the US Supreme Court declined to accept the administration's request to intervene.
Both those developments have taken the pressure off lawmakers.
With Dreamers and advocates stressing that the immigrants remain in legal limbo -- weeks after the White House and Congress failed spectacularly to address their fate -- Trump insisted he was ready to negotiate a solution.
"It's March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don't care," Trump said on Twitter.
"Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!"
With courts unlikely to rule definitively on immigration before summer, and the case expected to head to the Supreme Court after that, Congress is not expected to act before the mid-term elections in November.
Immigration advocates have used the unmet deadline as an inflection point to pressure Congress and the White House.
"March 5 is the deadline Trump gave the Congress to act and they haven't done anything," Bruna Bouhid, a 26-year-old student and Dreamer from Tampa, told AFP as she and others marched from the Washington Mall to the US Capitol.
"We are here to make sure they don't forget about us."
Hundreds of activists and Dreamers descended on Washington to press lawmakers into action. Many in a crowd of chanting protesters blocked traffic near the Capitol, while others demonstrated inside congressional office buildings.
Some 87 arrests were made, US Capitol Police reported.
Immigration-related demonstrations took place in several other cities, including New York.
"Stop playing with our lives!" said Lizbeth Huitzil, a young Mexican woman protesting in front of Trump Tower.
Lawmakers had every opportunity to legislate a fix, but the fate of the Dreamers has proved too divisive for Congress to resolve.
Last month, Democrats forced a brief government shutdown over the issue, demanding that the Senate's Republican leaders set aside time to debate immigration.
They agreed, but despite a week of floor debate last month, the Senate failed to pass any of a series of proposals addressing the situation of the Dreamers, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has not brought a legislative solution to the floor for a vote.
'CRUEL AND RECKLESS'
Among the Senate bills that failed to advance was a Trump-backed plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers -- the nearly 700,000 DACA registrants, plus 1.1 million who were eligible but did not register -- in exchange for extra border security funding and dramatic curtailment of legal immigration.
Several congressional Democrats and immigration advocates have warned that despite the court injunction, DACA recipients remain in legal uncertainty thanks to a crisis they say is of Trump's making.
"Without a permanent solution, Trump's cruel and reckless decision will tear more families apart, shatter communities, drive immigrants into the shadows, and make us all less safe as a result," Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham urged "all our colleagues to support the fair, permanent, and narrow bipartisan bills that protect Dreamers and which have the votes to pass the House and Senate."
Congress was already moving on. The Senate considers several judicial nominees this week, negotiations over federal spending are ongoing, and lawmakers are mulling whether to reform gun laws following a deadly school shooting in Florida.