U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s administration has presented Congress with an array of hard-line immigration priorities – including funding for a controversial border wall – in exchange for extending protections for up to 800,000 young immigrants, known as Dreamers.
Presented to Congress on October 8, Trump’s stipulations fall into three main categories: border security, interior enforcement, and a merit-based immigration system. His proposals include hiring an additional 10,000 immigration officers, deporting foreign unaccompanied minors, overhauling the country’s green card system by restricting applicants to spouses and underage children, and funding and completing a controversial border wall with Mexico.
Many of Trump’s demands have been previously ruled out by Democrats and threaten to derail fledgling bipartisan negotiations over legislation aimed at protecting Dreamers.
Dreamers get their name from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a legislative multi-phase proposal that would first grant conditional residency to qualifying foreign minors. After meeting additional requirements, qualifying minors would be granted permanent residency.
The Dream Act was first introduced in 2001 and has been re-introduced several times in both Houses, but has never been passed into law.
Several Republican allies praised Trump’s announcement today. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “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.”
Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson echoed Sessions’s statement, adding: “Even as we take new steps to protect Americans, we will make sure the United States remains a beacon of liberty for people the world over.”
Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said: “I look forward to working with Congress on legislation that will enact many of these common sense and necessary reforms that will inevitably better secure our nation.”
Under former president Barack Obama’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which was established in June 2012, Dreamers were given a two-year reprieve from deportation and became eligible for work permits.
After announcing DACA’s demise, Trump initially seemed eager to foster bipartisan support for a deal that separated Dreamers’ legal status from his more controversial immigration policies.
At a meeting with moderate members of both parties on September 12, the president urged Democrats and Republicans “to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion so that we can solve the DACA problem and other immigration problems.”
“If you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that’s what we’re going to give a shot,” Trump said.
A day later and after a Chinese food dinner at the White House to which Republicans members were not invited, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi announced: “We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
But the alleged agreement quickly crumbled after conservative lawmakers and commentators attacked the president for seemingly ignoring his party and making common cause with Democrats over the politically-fraught issue of immigration.
GOP Representative Steven King of Iowa, the House’s top immigration hardliner, tweeted that if reports of the deal were true, “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.”
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) September 14, 2017
Conservative firebrand and fervent Trump supporter Ann Coulter tweeted: “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”
At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached? https://t.co/g1mMhmm8ng
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 14, 2017
Far right-wing website Breitbart accused the president of “a full-fledged cave,” and ran a headline titled: “Amnesty Don”. Breitbart is run by Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s former chief strategist.
Trump tweeted on September 14: “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”
No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
Shortly after the White House’s announcement last night, Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement: “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 said.
“The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”
Another senior Democrat said: “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”.
Nelly González, Dreamer, university student, and marketing director at a staffing agency, told WikiTribune: “Before that [DACA], it was really hard. We didn’t get anything. We weren’t allowed to apply for a driver’s licence – not even a permit. We didn’t have social [security]. We were literally just a body here.”
“It’s really hard right now how people are viewing us and how people think,” said González, 22. “And it’s our duty to inform everybody out there what DACA is and make them see we’re not criminals, we’re not here to harm anybody. We’re just here to pursue our dreams.”