Donald Trump to offer citizenship path for 1.8 million young immigrants
Washington: President Donald Trump will support a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought into the US as children, doubling the number of people covered by current protections from deportation, White House officials said on Thursday.
As part of any deal, Trump also wants Congress to provide a $25 billion trust fund to pay for a southern border wall and enhanced security at ports of entry as well as improvements along the US-Canada border. He also will seek additional funds for immigration enforcement personnel and immigration judges.
The requests, detailed in what the White House is calling a “legislative framework” that is being delivered to Congress, also include limiting family-based immigration to nuclear families — spouses and children only — and ending the visa lottery system put into place more than two decades ago. Three White House officials previewed the framework on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.
The White House is asking the Senate to rely on its outline as lawmakers draft a bill to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which Trump announced last year would end in early March. The administration is asking Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell bring the bill to the floor the week of 6 February, just before current government funding runs out at the end of the day 8 February.
McConnell and other lawmakers have voiced concerns that they didn’t know what kind of immigration bill Trump would sign and were reluctant to publicly signal their support for something that he wouldn’t back. The framework is in effect a bottom line for Trump, one official said when asked if it was negotiable.
The president’s willingness to sign a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship is a shift from his campaign promise to end all “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. In a 9 January meeting with lawmakers, the president said he wanted to deal with the issue with “love.” The White House, eager to tighten immigration policy, is casting the proposal as a major concession intended to spur DACA recipients’ backers to agree to policy changes that they otherwise may not favour.
A White House official said on Thursday that the administration anticipates the House will probably pass its own immigration bill that will have to merged with what the Senate approves.
The 1.8 million people who would be eligible for a 10-to-12-year pathway to citizenship include the 690,000 people enrolled in the DACA program, plus a similar number who were eligible for the program but didn’t apply, and a small number who would become eligible because of adjustments to the calendar used to determine qualifications, an official said.
The program would set requirements for education, work and good moral character, as defined in the law for seeking US citizenship. Legal status could be revoked in the event of criminal conduct, public safety or national security concerns, fraud, or if the person becomes financially dependent on the government.
DACA recipients’ parents
The limits on immigration preferences for family members would mean that people could no longer bring parents or other relatives.
Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said earlier this week that the status of DACA recipients’ parents must be addressed if family-based immigration such as sponsorship of parents is eliminated.
Trump’s proposal is sure to hit resistance from immigration hardliners among Republicans in Congress. Senator Ted Cruz earlier Thursday blasted the idea of giving young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, and suggested Trump was betraying his voters.
“I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally,” the Texas Republican said in the Capitol. “Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”
Trump engaged in a bitter fight with Cruz for the Republican nomination and won by taking a hardline stance on immigration. During the primaries, Cruz also took a strong stance on immigration and came out firmly against legalizing undocumented immigrants.
In addition to the $25 billion for border security, the White House is seeking efforts to address the flow of the drug fentanyl, something that Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota requested on Thursday.
The end of the visa lottery program would allow the government to reallocate resources toward processing the backlog of family-related and high-skilled visa requests, one official said. Bloomberg