White House offers citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants
JAN 25, 2018 |
BY MARTIN BARILLAS
According to White House officials, President Donald Trump will endorse a pathway to American citizenship for some 1.8 million young illegal immigrants in a plan set for release on Monday. On Thursday, the officials described the plan to reporters as the best chance for Congress to come to a solution for the illegal immigrants who benefit from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump rescinded in the fall. Funding for the program is due to be terminated in early February. The immigrants who benefited under DACA were those who had reached the age of 31 before June 15, 2012, under Barack Obama's scheme. However, the total number of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before they reached 18 is much larger.
The Senate is being urged by the White House to devise legislation based on the plan and introduce it during the week of Feb. 5. The plan has components that may be hard to accept for members of both parties. Under the plan, DACA beneficiaries and those who are eligible but have not yet applied would be allowed to petition for legal status if they meet education and work requirements to be drafted by Congress.
Previously, the White House had claimed that only the approximately 690,000 immigrants covered by DACA would be eligible to apply for citizenship. However, on Thursday, while President Trump was attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, a White House official said that 1.1 million more illegal immigrants who meet age and status requirements for DACA could also apply.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are 3.6 million illegal immigrants -- the Dreamers currently living in the U.S. who were brought before their 18th birthday. That number is approximately one third of all illegal immigrants in the country and does not include millions of their immediate family members who are U.S. citizens. However, the latest White House plan contemplates less than half of the Dreamers.
10 to 12 year timeline for citizenship
On Wednesday, Trump revealed to the media that under his plan, the immigrants contemplated would need 10-12 years to eventually earn citizenship. In was was described as a “dramatic concession” by White House officials, the plan expands the pool of illegal immigrants eligible for U.S. citizenship. Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to help illegal immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as minors. The Dreamer population is believed to number 3.6 million people.
Trump is asking for $25 billion in funding to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico frontier. The allocation would be kept in a trust fund so it could not be clawed back by future Congresses. While the wall is expected to cost $20 billion, another $5 billion would be used for stronger security measures for ports of entry and at the U.S-Canada border. Another $5 billion would be spent to hire more Border Patrol officers and immigration judges.
Some Republicans are already criticizing Trump’s plan. “I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters. “Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a statement that said Trump’s plan "builds upon the four pillars for reform that the president has consistently put forth." He said, "Members on both sides of the aisle will look to this framework for guidance as they work towards an agreement," McConnell said.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the proposal, which will be unveiled on Monday, is a “compromise that members of both parties can support” and urged the Senate to vote on the measure. “This framework will fulfill the four agreed-upon pillars: securing the border and closing legal loopholes; ending extended-family chain migration; cancelling the visa lottery; and providing a permanent solution on Daca,” Sanders said during the press briefing on Wednesday. “After decades of inaction by Congress, it’s time we work together to solve this issue once and for all.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) office praised the Trump administration for releasing a plan. “We’re grateful for the president showing leadership on this issue and believe his ideas will help us ultimately reach a balanced solution,” said spokesman Doug Andres.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that proposed a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, showed that he has no plans to join senators of both parties to protect Dreamers. In an interview with Politico, Rubio said he will not support legislation based on a bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that provides young illegal immigrants with a pathway to citizenship and billions for border security. Rubio is instead gathering support for legislation that would cut legal immigration and further limit refugees.
'Beginning of the end of Republicans'
White House domestic policy adviser called Republican congressional staffers on Thursday to describe Trump’s plan. According to Politico, a Republican staffer who listened to the call said, “This is the beginning of the end of the GOP majority in the House," and added, "In a year when the Democrats impeach Trump, we can point to this moment."
Miller reportedly said, “The president has indicated a willingness to extend citizenship to 1.8 million individuals as part of this immigration reform package,” he said. “That would be the DACA population, plus individuals who failed to apply for DACA but otherwise met the requirements, as well as adjustments in timeframe that would bring the total maximum population size to 1.8 million.”
Author and pundit Ann Coutler tweeted late on Thursday about the proposed plan: "Why is it so hard 1) enforce federal law; and 2) keep campaign promises." While she was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump's presidential ambitions, Coulter has of late become critical of his stances on immi