- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- The White House released a framework for its immigration plan on Thursday.
- The framework provided a pathway to citizenship for nearly 1.8 million immigrants that are either enrolled in or otherwise qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
- But proposed changes to legal immigration programs and funding for a border wall drew ire from Democrats.
The White House on Thursday released a framework as an opening salvo ahead of bipartisan immigration talks. But Democrats were not pleased with the proposed deal, setting up another high-stakes showdown as the government lurches toward another potential shutdown early next month.
The White House framework proposes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants either enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or otherwise qualify for it.
Codification of the DACA program has been central to Democrats’ list of priorities during the previous government shutdown fight. A bipartisan working group has attempted to come to an agreement on the issue over the past month.
But Democrats bristled at several items in the White House proposal they said aimed to please the GOP’s immigration hardliners.
That included $25 billion in proposed funding for Trump’s long-promised wall along the border with Mexico, as well as changes to legal immigration programs.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois likened the trade-off to a “ransom.”
“$25 billion as ransom for Dreamers with cuts to legal immigration and increases to deportations doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Gutierrez tweeted Thursday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also slammed the White House plan.
“The Administration’s anti-immigrant framework is an act of staggering cowardice which attempts to hold the DREAMers hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme,” Pelosi said in a statement.
While Democrats took exception to the proposed border wall funding, the majority of their pushback focused on possible changes to the legal immigration system.
As part of a deal, Trump has proposed to curtail the family reunification system – which opponents brand “chain migration” – to immediate family members, as well as eliminate the diversity visa lottery.
“The White House claims to be compromising because the President now agrees with the overwhelming majority of Americans that Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship,” Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber who is closely involved in the talks, said in a statement Thursday.
He added: “But his plan would put the Administration’s entire hardline immigration agenda – including massive cuts to legal immigration – on the backs of these young people.”
Another Democratic member involved in the negotiations, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, called it an example of Trump negotiating in bad faith.
“But instead of working with both parties in good faith to advance bipartisan proposals that protect DREAMers and strengthen border security, he continues to move the goal posts – now insisting that any deal to prevent DREAMer families from being split apart require that other families be separated instead,” Hoyer said. “That does not reflect America’s values, and it is not good policy.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, also took issue with the proposed legal immigration changes on Twitter.
“There is no public policy justification for cutting legal immigration in half. None,” Schatz said Thursday.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the plan only solved a DACA problem Trump created by ending the program with a six-month phase-out period in September in an attempt to curtail legal immigration.
“The White House is using Dreamers to mask their underlying xenophobic, isolationist, and un-American policies, which will harm millions of immigrants living in the United States and millions of others who want to legally immigrate and contribute to our country,” Grisham said in a statement.
At the same time, many hardline conservative Republicans on immigration applauded the framework.
“The White House framework is something that both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate should be eager to support,” Sen. David Perdue said after the release. “We all want a good deal, and here it is.”
The full White House plan is set to be rolled out on Monday, and the Senate has set February 8 as the deadline to reach an immigration deal.