The Trump administration on Sunday announced it’s seeking several major changes to the country’s immigration system — in exchange for extending the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
The requests included additional crackdowns on “sanctuary cities” that protect illegal immigrants; reducing the number of incoming refugees; 10,000 more Customs and Border Patrol agents; and new initiatives curbing the number of unaccompanied immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally as children. Democrats have already said many of the White House’s terms are off the table.
“Unfortunately, over the last several decades respect for the rule of law has broken down and immigration enforcement has been sacrificed for the sake of political expediency. This has made us less secure and it cannot stand,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Now President Trump has put forth a series of proposals that will restore the rule of law to our immigration system, prioritize America’s safety and security, and end the lawlessness. These are reasonable proposals that will build on the early success of President Trump’s leadership. This plan will work. If followed it will produce an immigration system with integrity and one in which we can take pride. Perhaps the best result will be that unlawful attempts to enter will continue their dramatic decline.”
DACA essentially allows law-abiding illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. by their parents to live and work in the country without fear of deportation.
The Trump administration argued earlier this year that federal courts were ready to strike down DACA as unconstitutional, which would put the future of so-called “Dreamers” in jeopardy.
Trump gave Congress six months to find a legislative alternative, then struck a framework deal last month with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, leaving the door open for extending DACA.
In a joint statement, Pelosi and Schumer said the White House’s new list of requests “goes so far beyond what is reasonable” and “fails to represent any attempt at compromise.
“The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans,” they wrote.
“If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so,” they said.
The White House also asked to limit family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, in addition to creating a point-based system. And, it called for boosting fees at border crossings, making it easier to deport gang members and unaccompanied children, and overhauling the asylum system.
“When crafting the Administration’s immigration principles, the President asked us to focus on measures that will assist the Department of Homeland Security’s law enforcement personnel with what they need to enforce our immigration laws, secure our border, and protect American communities across this country,” Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., fired back: “The President’s draconian and anti-immigrant principles jeopardize the bi-partisan, bi-cameral progress that has been made to pass a legislative solution that will protect nearly 800,000 Dreamers. It is immoral for the President to use the lives of these young people as bargaining chips in his quest to impose his cruel, anti-immigrant and un-American agenda on our nation.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokesman Doug Andres said the House immigration working group would review the list and consult with Republican members and the administration.
Fox News’ Jennifer Bowman, Jason Donner, Jake Gibson, Serafin Gomez, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.