Paul Handley, AFP, January 26, 2018
US President Donald Trump’s administration has unveiled a sweeping new immigration plan to Congress that offers 1.8 million young unauthorized immigrants known as “Dreamers” a path to citizenship over 10-12 years.
In a comprehensive reform that will be formally presented next week, Trump also asked Congress Thursday to eliminate the popular “green card lottery” program and severely restrict family immigration, steps analysts say could cut in half the more than one million foreign-born people moving to the country annually.
And in the name of halting illegal immigration, he has also demanded Congress budget $25 billion for a “trust fund” for constructing a wall on the US-Mexico border — a major plank of Trump’s White House campaign.
“The Department of Homeland Security must have the tools to deter illegal immigrants; the ability to remove individuals who illegally enter the United States, and the vital authorities necessary to protect national security,” a senior White House official told journalists.
The White House’s offer of a path to citizenship for the Dreamers was much wider than expected. Earlier it had suggested it was only open to granting citizenship to the 690,000 young immigrants registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
But in exchange, Trump was asking Congress to make future legal immigration more difficult — and to shore up the Homeland Security Department’s toolbox and funding to crack down on the overall population of unauthorized immigrants, estimated at some 11 million, including Dreamers.
The White House plan immediately provoked the ire of Democrats, who made clear they would likely fight to water down the changes in negotiations in coming weeks.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, said a bill calling for a big crackdown on undocumented immigrants and new restrictions on legal entry for relatives might be a hard sell.
“The White House released a hateful, xenophobic immigration proposal that would slash legal immigration to levels not seen since the racial quotas of the 1920s,” said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union.
But Republican leaders in Congress voiced solid support: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the White House proposal was a “framework” for crafting a final immigration deal.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a hardline conservative, called Trump’s framework “generous and humane, while also being responsible.”