WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he will support a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, according to a telephone briefing by the White House for Republican congressional staff members. His remarks could move negotiations on an immigration deal that is stalled in Congress.
The call, hosted by White House adviser Stephen Miller, outlined the demands for any deal on DACA, which includes a $25 billion “trust fund” for a border wall, an end to family reunification, also called “chain migration” by conservatives, and an end to the diversity visa lottery.
A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, however, is a significant concession for Democrats, most of whom say they will not support any deal that does not provide for citizenship.
A bipartisan proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
Trump told reporters Wednesday night before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he’d support legalization that would “morph” into citizenship.
Miller also discussed the White House’s desire for increased deportations at the border, but he said it is not something that will be part of the president’s demands.
Many on Capitol Hill have been waiting for specifics from the president on what he wants to see in an immigration bill. He has expressed requirements in line with conservative principles while also signaling his openness to a more lenient plan, confusing the topic for lawmakers attempting to draft legislation.
“We’re grateful for the president showing leadership on this issue, and believe his ideas will help us ultimately reach a balanced solution,” Michael Ricci, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, told NBC News.
Immigration activists blasted the plan for ending family reunification, and vowed to oppose it in Congress.
“They think that by offering up a spoonful of sugar — relief for Dreamers — they can get Congress and the American people to swallow the bitter medicine of radical nativism,” Frank Sharry, founder of America’s Voice, an immigration rights group. “We are going to fight this tooth and nail.”
United We Dream Advocacy Director Greisa Martínez Rosas, who would be a DACA beneficiary, went further in a statement.
“Let’s call this proposal for what it is: a white supremacist ransom note,” she said. “Trump and Stephen Miller killed DACA and created the crisis that immigrant youths are facing. They have taken immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, Black immigrants and our communities in exchange for our dignity.”
The ACLU also did not pull any punches, saying that “the only community that benefits from this supposed generosity are white supremacists.”
The nonprofit advocacy organization added that the “proposal is clearly an effort to sabotage bipartisan talks on the issue by continuing to put issues on the table that are non-starters.”
Democrats in Congress were also less than pleased by the new proposal. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, said in a tweet that Trump’s proposal didn’t “pass the laugh test.”
— Luis V. Gutierrez (@RepGutierrez) January 25, 2018
And Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., excoriated the bill in a statement.
“We cannot allow the lives of young people who have done everything right to be used as bargaining chips for sweeping anti-immigrant policies,” she said. “The White House is using Dreamers to mask their underlying xenophobic, isolationist, and un-American policies, which will harm millions of immigrants living in the United States and millions of others who want to legally immigrate and contribute to our country.”
Meanwhile, other Democrats in the House and Senate — as well as liberal advocates — shared their continued displeasure with Trump’s proposal on social media.
The White House’s immigration framework is not a serious attempt to reach an agreement on #DACA. It is Stephen Miller’s nativist wishlist, which pits children against children and immigrants against immigrants. We need a #DreamActNow!
— Rep. Ted Lieu (@RepTedLieu) January 25, 2018
By ending DACA, @realdonaldtrump subjected 800k Dreamers to deportation. Now he wants to hold them hostage to Steven Miller’s anti-immigrant wish list. It’s insulting. We already have a bipartisan solution to the Trump-created crisis: it’s called the Dream Act. #DreamActNow
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 25, 2018
#PresidentMiller‘s immigration plan is about one thing: white supremacy. It is about fundamentally changing the makeup of our country by removing people of color and preventing them from coming in the first place.#DreamActNow
— Angel Padilla (@AngelRafPadilla) January 25, 2018
Democrats shut down the government over the issue of immigration for three days, demanding progress on the issue of protecting Dreamers. Trump, who announced he was ending the Obama-era DACA program in September, gave Congress until March 5 to find a legislative solution for the people who were brought to the U.S. as young children by their parents and whose legal status remains in limbo.
To end the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to take up DACA if no deal is reached between the White House, the Senate and the House before February 8, which is when the next government funding bill runs out.
In a statement Thursday, McConnell thanked Trump for putting forth the framework.
“I am hopeful that as discussions continue in the Senate on the subject of immigration, Members on both sides of the aisle will look to this framework for guidance as they work towards an agreement,” he said.
A White House official told reporters that they would like to see their proposal, which is likely to be more conservative than anything the Senate would devise, brought up the week of February 5, just days before the funding deadline.