Washington: US President Donald Trump offered a proposal to extend protections for so-called Dreamers for three years in exchange for his demanded $5.7 billion toward a border wall as a way to reopen the federal government after almost a month.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring a bill to the Senate this week, Trump said in a 13-minute televised address from the White House in which he emphasized that parts of his plan had been supported by Democrats in the past.
Top Democrats, including house speaker Nancy Pelosi, rejected the plan earlier on Saturday, and conservative voices chimed in to attack Trump’s offer of relief for so-called “Dreamers"—young people bought to the country illegally as children—in exchange for funding for border security.
In an emailed statement, McConnell said he intends to move legislation this week. “With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well," McConnell said.
Trump portrayed his offer a way to end a partial government shutdown now into its fifth week, the longest in modern history. Opinion polls this month have consistently shown that Americans blame Trump and Republican lawmakers more than Democrats for the government shutdown now in its fifth week.
“I’m here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward," Trump said in an unusual Saturday appearance from the White House.
Much of Trump’s speech had the same hard-edged tone as his Oval Office address earlier in the month. He spoke in dark terms of migrant women being raped on their journey through Mexico to the US border, and tied illegal immigrants to crime and drugs.
As indicated earlier, the plan outlined by Trump included:
- Three years of legislative relief for 700,000 DACA recipients, which would make available to those individuals work permits, Social Security numbers, and protection from deportation.
- A three-year extension of temporary protected status affecting about 300,000 individuals from various countries.
- In return, Trump again requested $5.7 billion for a “strategic deployment of physical barriers" at the US-Mexico border. The wall would not stretch from sea to sea, he said, but would be strategic and in selected locations, including 115 miles now under construction or under contract, and 230 more miles this year.
Earlier, Pelosi said Trump’s proposals were “a non-starter."
“Initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives," Pelosi said in a statement.
Democratic senator Dick Durbin said earlier that he can’t support the proposed offer as reported and also doesn’t believe it can pass the Senate. “I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues," the Illinois lawmaker added.
Ann Coulter, an influential conservative commentator, tweeted that “100 miles of border wall in exchange for amnestying millions of illegals. So if we grant citizenship to a BILLION foreigners, maybe we can finally get a full border wall."
A similar deal was rebuffed by Democrats in March during an earlier government funding debate, according to a Republican and Democratic aide at the time. Republican leaders and the White House offered two-and-a-half years of protections, without a path to citizenship, for DACA beneficiaries in exchange for border wall funding.
Democrats rejected it then, and asked for a path to citizenship, fearing that it would give Trump his wall money while making DACA recipients eligible for deportation after a few years. The White House said no to a path to citizenship, and negotiations collapsed.
The White House has said repeatedly that the time to address the Dreamers would be after the Supreme Court Rules on whether Trump’s attempt to deport them can go forward, and has requested the issue be considered urgently. But the top US court indicated on Friday that it wouldn’t hear a case on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, any time soon.