The Trump administration Sunday sent Congress a list of tough immigration reforms it would require to be included in any legislation that would allow immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to remain. The proposals include funding for a southern border wall and are likely to be rebuked by Democrats.
The status of nearly 800,000 Dreamers was called into question in September when President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era program that had protected them, known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), giving Congress six months to enact the program into law. Trump has said he has a heart for DACA recipients and has told Democratic leaders that he would work with Congress to find a fix for the program.
But the policies outlined by the White House on Sunday night are likely to push Democrats away from the negotiating table. Some of the toughest proposals include removing protections for unaccompanied minor immigrants, allowing state and local police to investigate immigration status more broadly and limiting visas given to spouses and family members of immigrants who come to the United States to work to curb a pattern referred to as chain migration.
"We ask that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients," said White House legislative affairs director Marc Short. "Otherwise, we know immigration and chain migration will likely increase."
Trump said in a letter to Congress on Sunday that former President Barack Obama's establishment of DACA "bypassed the Congress" and "threatened Congress's status as a coequal branch of Government," resulting in what he characterized as a surge of illegal immigration.
Last month, Democratic congressional leaders expressed optimism that they could find a deal with the president to extend DACA protections in exchange for provisions to strengthen the border. But at the time, and again in reaction to the White House demands Sunday, they said a border wall was a non-starter.
"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," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a joint statement. "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."
Many of the details of the demands remained unclear. The White House did not say how much money it needed for a border wall or how many miles it would like such a barrier to cover. One proposal would seek to expand the number of immigrants who can be deported without going before an immigration judge, but there were no specifics over how who would be subject to that process.
One source familiar with the deliberations described the policies last week as a "wish list" of Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hard-liner and former Senate staffer for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.