Border hawks praised President Donald Trump’s shoot-for-the-moon list of demands as part of any deal to grant legal status to so-called “dreamers,” beneficiaries of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, even as Democrats went ballistic.
Trump on Sunday released a long list of demands ranging from building a wall to cracking down on “sanctuary cities” to reforming the legal immigration system. He wrote that these measures must be part of any law replacing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program the previous administration created to grant quasi-amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought to America as children.
“Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end,” he wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who a month ago had expressed confidence that they had a tentative agreement with the president on a legislative replacement for DACA, blasted Trump’s list. They issued a joint statement making clear they consider a border wall to be a non-starter.
“The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community, and to the vast majority of Americans,” they said in the statement.
But activists favoring a harder line on illegal immigration — some of whom felt betrayed by earlier reports that Trump seemed willing to sign an amnesty bill without serious concessions — expressed elation.
“Truly historic!” Immigration Reform Law Institute executive director Dale Wilcox wrote in an email to LifeZette. “These policies if enacted WILL make America great again.”
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions concluded that the executive branch lacks the authority to create DACA, Trump announced that he was winding it down. The administration no longer is accepting new applications, and Thursday was the deadline for applying for a renewal. The programs shielded beneficiaries from deportation and allowed them to work legally in the United States.
Trump’s immigration principles read like a wish list for policy analysts and activists who long have believed the immigration system is out of control. In addition to a border wall, it includes demands for measures to stop unaccompanied minors who have streamed across the border by the tens of thousands since 2014.
“We need to know who’s coming into the country. We need to save jobs for American workers. We need to protect American taxpayers.”
The administration wants to make it harder for illegal immigrants to claim asylum and to ensure that people caught near the border are quickly sent home. It calls for expanding the grounds that a foreigner is deemed inadmissible to the United States.
The list also includes measures to beef up interior immigration enforcement, including discouraging cities and counties from adopting sanctuary policies; an encouragement of state and local officials to help enforce immigration violations; expanded detention authority; and a crackdown on people who stay illegally after their visas expire.
To protect American workers, the administration wants a law mandating businesses use the E-Verify system that automatically checks the legal status of potential employees.
And the list includes the heart of legislation introduced by Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). It would dramatically cut legal immigration by prohibiting new citizens from sponsoring extended family members for immigration, ending the diversity visa lottery, and creating a points-based system that favors immigrants with education and skills.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, pledged to work with the administration to enact the reforms.
“The immigration reform policies outlined yesterday by the Trump administration reinforce the President’s pledge to the American people to fight for their interests and restore law and order,” he said in a statement. “We applaud the administration’s leadership on principles that will be critical to any immigration policy changes.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who has sponsored a bill to make E-Verify mandatory and has offered a House version of the Perdue-Cotton bill, also praised the president.
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“We need to know who’s coming into the country,” he said in a statement. “We need to save jobs for American workers. We need to protect American taxpayers. We need to have immigrants respect our laws, and we need to keep our communities safe from criminal immigrants.”
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, argued that Trump’s immigration principles put American workers first and would fulfill the vision he laid out as a candidate last year. He emphasized the importance of two of the items on the list — ending so-called “chain migration” and mandating E-Verify.
“Most politicians who have been commenting lately on immigration policy have failed to show the compassion and support that the Trump Administration is offering the women and men of America who want a decent shot at a decent job without having to compete with millions of new foreign workers being added to compete with them,” he said in a statement.