Trump Administration Reopens Door to Citizenship for Dreamers

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, October 3, 2017

Top administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that illegal immigrant Dreamers should be granted a full pathway to citizenship, seemingly contradicting President Trump who said last month that citizenship wasn’t on the table.

With just two days to go before the final deadline for Dreamers to renew protections under the Obama-era deportation amnesty program known as DACA, officials were on Capitol Hill to defend their handling of the situation.

They said that with the exception of Puerto Ricans affected by hurricanes, the Oct. 5 renewal deadline will remain in place, saying it’s up to Congress to figure out some more permanent protections.

Michael Dougherty, assistance Homeland Security secretary for strategy and policy, said the nearly 700,000 Dreamers currently protected by DACA have earned it.

“They’re a benefit to the country, as are many immigrants coming in,” he said. “They are a valuable contribution to our society. We need to regularize their status through some legal means.”

Pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, about whether that status should stop short of citizenship, Mr. Dougherty said citizenship has to be available to Dreamers.

“Creating second-class citizens or people who are never able to naturalize is not a good model,” he said. He said Mr. Trump shares that view.

But just last month Mr. Trump, explaining what he was looking for in a deal from Congress, seemed to rule out citizenship rights.

“We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here,” Mr. Trump said after meeting with top Democratic leaders to talk about a path forward.

Mr. Trump had also expressed concern about whether the newly legalized children would be able to petition for their parents—often the ones who brought them here illegally—to eventually gain legal status, thereby benefiting from their illegal activity.

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Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, signaled he’s looking for a long list of add-ons to any legalization bill. He pointed to more border security, cleaner laws related to deportation, and mandatory use by businesses of E-Verify, the currently voluntary federal program that allows businesses to check potential hires’ work status.

“If everybody’s reasonable, we can reach a solution,” Mr. Grassley said.

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“If Republicans continue to insist on measures outside of the Dream Act and sensible border security that excludes the wall, they’re going to risk ruining a bipartisan agreement to protect the Dreamers,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

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