A White House memo to Congress outlining President Trump’s plan for a bipartisan immigration reform deal calls for the termination of chain migration and visa lotteries, but more than doubles the number of “Dreamers.”
In a one-page memo leaked by a congressional source on Thursday, the White House outlines the framework for an immigration plan that would require lawmakers to set up a $25 billion “trust fund” to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, and invest in improvements and enhancements at the northern border with Canada.
Trump is also seeking additional funds to hire new immigration agents, lawyers and judges. On Wednesday, Trump said the additional funds would be around $5 billion, but the White House said the final amount would be up for further discussion.
In exchange, the White House would provide a 10-12 year path to citizenship for a total of around 1.8 million illegal immigrants, including recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as those who are DACA-eligible. Democrats had been urgently pushing for permanent legal status for nearly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” covered by DACA.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that immigrants would “morph into” citizens over the next decade if they met certain requirements.
“If somebody’s worked hard, if they’ve done a great job, it gives you an incentive to do a great job,” Trump told reporters at an impromptu meeting at the White House before departing for Davos, Switzerland, according to the Daily Caller. “They’ve worked hard, They’ve done terrifically, whether they have a little company, or whether they work, whatever they’re doing, if they done a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive after a period of time to become a citizen.”
The memo states that immigrants would have “clear” requirements for work, education and “good moral character” in order to be eligible. Their status could be revoked in the event of “criminal conduct or public safety and national security concerns, public charge, fraud, etc.”
Trump’s proposal calls on lawmakers to end the Visa Lottery program and use those visas to reduce the backlog of family members and high-skilled workers. The administration is seeking to promote the migration of nuclear families by limiting family sponsorships to spouses and minor children only. The change would end extended-family chain migration prospectively.
“This is kind of a bottom line for the president,” a senior official told reporters, according to Reuters. “If it’s realistic, then he’ll sign it. If it isn’t realistic, then he won’t sign it.”
In a call with Republican staffers on Thursday, Politico reported senior White House adviser Stephen Miller called the proposal “a compromise position that we believe … will get 60 votes in the Senate” and “a framework that ultimately will lead to passage of a law.”
However, Democrats were skeptical about the plan, with many lawmakers saying Trump has been known to change his position in the past.
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said the Trump administration has “proven unreliable and wildly unpredictable.”
“Within the course of hours, they say different things,” Schumer said, according to Reuters.
Other Democrats also worry that Trump’s proposal will change.
“I welcome when he says the right thing. But I know the next day he might be 180 degrees different,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in an interview, according to Politico. “We’ve got to get him to sign something right after he says the right thing.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) quickly denounced the plan on Twitter.
“It would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America. Both a wall and the statue would be equally offensive and equally ineffective and both would express Trump’s deeply held suspicion of Latinos,” Gutierrez tweeted.
It would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America. Both a wall and the statue would be equally offensive and equally ineffective and both would express Trump’s deeply held suspicion of Latinos. https://t.co/R8g4iRHzYX
— Luis V. Gutierrez (@RepGutierrez) January 25, 2018
Many Republicans were also unhappy with the plan, which they said was an abrupt reversal of campaign promises Trump made during the election.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who took a strong stance against legalizing undocumented immigrants in the 2016 presidential election, said the proposal was “inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”
“For some reason that to me is utterly inexplicable, we see Republicans falling all over themselves to gallop to the left of Obama in a way that is contrary to the promises made to the voters who elected us,” Cruz told reporters, according to Bloomberg. “We need to honor the promises we made. And that is what I am energetically urging my colleagues to do.”
One Republican staffer reportedly said the proposal marked “the beginning of the end of the GOP majority in the House.”
“In a year when the Democrats impeach Trump, we can point to this moment,” the staffer said, according to Politico.
However, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a leading member of a bipartisan group of senators tasked with crafting the immigration deal, applauded Trump for reaching across the aisle in his proposal.
“President Trump’s support for a pathway to citizenship will help us get strong border security measures as we work to modernize a broken immigration system,” Graham said in a statement. “With this strong statement by President Trump, I have never felt better about our chances of finding a solution on immigration.”
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), a frequent and harsh critic of Trump, expressed cautious support for the plan and blamed White House staffers for Trump’s previous stance.
“When the President speaks freely … his instincts are better than the advice he’s given,” Flake said.
Flake on how the President can be instrumental in getting a deal on DACA/immigration: When the President speaks freely…his instincts are better than the advice he’s given.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 25, 2018
Trump previously rejected a plan developed by a bipartisan group of senators, which eventually led to a three-day shut down of the federal government. Lawmakers passed a spending bill to keep the government open until February 8, less than a month before the DACA program is set to expire on March 5.