Lawmakers greeted President Donald Trump’s immigration reform framework, released on Thursday (January 25), with wide-ranging criticism. Congressional leaders urge the president to keep any immigration deal narrowly focused on the young immigrants who came to the United States as children (known as "Dreamers") as he prepares to address the topic during his first State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
Trump’s plan calls on providing legal status, with a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship, for some 1.8 million young immigrants who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program that shielded young immigrants from deportation and allowed them to work and study in the United States legally. The 1.8 million figure represents nearly twice the number of immigrants who were benefiting from DACA when the administration announced it was rescinding the program in September.
In exchange, the White House wants a $25 billion "trust fund" over the next decade or so to fund a border wall and enhance security at ports of entry. Trump also proposes curtailing family-based migration by limiting family sponsorships to spouses and minor children, and completly eliminating the visa lottery program, or "green card lottery," which aims to diversify the immigrant population by providing 50,000 permanent resident visas a year to people from countries that are underrepresented in the U.S.
But in a Friday morning Tweet, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Trump’s immigration proposal a wish list molded by anti-immigration extremists.
While @realDonaldTrump finally acknowledged that the Dreamers should be allowed to stay here and become citizens, he uses them as a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hardliners have advocated for for years. 2/2
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 26, 2018
Other top Democrats lined up behind Schumer in panning the proposal. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dubbed the framework "anti-immigrant." And Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who wrote a bipartisan immigration proposal with Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would shield DACA recipients that was rejected by the White House as "dead on arrival," said Trump’s plan would install a "hard-line immigration agenda—including massive cuts to legal immigration—on the backs of these young people," according to Politico.
Conservative Republicans reacted to Trump’s plan with similar scorn, in a sign that drafting immigration legislation before the newly imposed February 8 deadline will prove daunting. In a Friday (January 26) morning tweet, immigration hawk Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), said Trump’s plan amounted to "mass amnesty," a common refrain among anti-immigration devotees.
The American People have a Right to enforcement of our laws & a Right to a sealed border. Illegals have No Right to be here & have ALL violated our laws. This #Amnesty deal negotiates away American Sovereignty.
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 26, 2018
Others, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), said Trump’s proposal showed promise, calling the plan "generous and humane."
Said Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), according to The Hill:
We all agree that Congress needs to act to address those who were brought here illegally through no fault of their own, but we also must make sure that other young people don’t find themselves in the same legal limbo in the future. President Trump’s framework accomplishes these goals and gives federal law enforcement the crucial authorities needed to target criminals.
In September, Trump rescinded the Obama-era DACA program that protected young immigrants from deportation and called on Congress to find a legislative solution. Trump’s order, however, was immediately challenged by several state attorneys general.
In early January, a federal judge temporarily barred the Trump administration from ending DACA until litigation over the administration’s position is resolved. The White House has called on the Supreme Court to take up the case.
Bipartisan criticism of Trump’s immigration framework comes as the president prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, when he’s expected to sell his immigration plan to Congress. Ahead of the speech, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle urged the president to show empathy to immigrants.
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told Politico: "If he made statements like we’ve heard at some other points, like ‘with heart’ and ‘bill of love,’ that kind of thing is helpful." Added Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): "I truly, sincerely think that he has compassion and empathy, and he wants to make sure children that only know this country as their home gets security. I think for people to be able to see his compassion he has for these children would be good."