President Donald Trump’s surprise amnesty offer has put many of his traditional immigration allies in an unfamiliar position — opposing him.
Trump won the 2016 presidential election with the strong backing of immigration hawks who favor both a crackdown on illegal immigration and lower levels of legal immigration. With a few exceptions, those activists have been pleased with the president’s performance during his first year in office.
But Trump’s proposal Thursday to grant legal status and a path to citizenship for some 1.8 million illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to America as children has provoked a firestorm. “Time to start burning your #MAGA hats,” tweeted Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
“This outline is bad news,” he told LifeZette Friday. He added, “There’s nothing to go to war with until there’s an actual bill.”
Under the emerging White House proposal, some 1.8 million illegal immigrants of “good moral character” who work or seek education would be eligible to apply for amnesty, which would allow them to legally live and work in the United States and then become citizens in 10 to 12 years.
In exchange, Congress would authorize a $25 billion trust fund to build a wall and pay for other border security measures. The diversity visa lottery would end, and the 50,000 green cards currently awarded randomly would be applied to a backlog of other legal immigration categories.
Congress would close loopholes that make it hard to deport certain groups of border crossers, such as unaccompanied minors from Central American nations. New citizens no longer would be able to sponsor extended family members for immigration, but millions of people currently on waiting lists for family-based immigration would be allowed to come here.
The Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee — which last year retroactively revoked its 2016 endorsement of President Trump for his failure to immediately end his predecessor’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — is preparing for an all-out assault in the latest proposal.
“We just launched the first of a three-phase knockout DACA plan,” the group’s president, William Gheen, told LifeZette. “We know that a majority of Americans agree with us.”
Gheen said he was working to mobilize angry and confused Trump supporters. He said absent a popular uprising, amnesty likely will pass quickly.
“We’ve got ’til Monday morning to get people to battle stations,” he said.
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, argued that Trump’s proposal is “eerily similar” to previous amnesty proposals. He noted that so-called chain migration would continue for another 15 to 20 years as applicants who would be grandfathered in continue to get green cards.
“He’s basically destroying Republicans’ chances at holding the House in 2018 … It’s hard to see how Trump is going to win re-election now.”
“Under the White House framework, young adult illegal border crossers and visa overstayers would get immediate benefits, including, most importantly, the right to compete with Americans in the permanent job market,” he said in a statement. “But vulnerable American workers would get little or no relief from the competition of chain migration for 15 to 20 years.”
Other immigration hawks expressed dismay that Trump retreated from the signature issue — without any warning — that made him president. Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said his organization is paying millions of dollars for an advertising campaign around next week’s State of the Union address to promote the theme, “Trump’s priorities are Americans’ priorities.”
Now, Stein wonders, “What the hell are Trump’s priorities?”
Stein noted the White House framework makes no mention of making mandatory the E-Verify program, which allows businesses to instantly check whether new hires are authorized to work in the United States.
Stein said Trump is ceding too much leverage to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and demoralizing his own supporters.
“He’s basically destroying Republicans’ chances at holding the House in 2018 … It’s hard to see how Trump is going to win re-election now,” he said.
Trump does not appear to be getting traction on the Left, either. United We Dream, an advocacy group of the very people who would benefit from Trump’s proposal, responded to it by calling it racist.
“Let’s call this proposal for what it is: a white supremacist ransom note,” advocacy director Greisa Martinez Rosas said in a statement.
Appearing before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) on Friday called it an attempt to “make America white again.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Thursday tweeted that it “would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America” than to authorize funding for a border wall.
The initial Democratic reception could simply be posturing, an opening gambit to move the final legislation more in their direction. But CIS’s Krikorian said he believes it well could indicate how radical the party has become on immigration.
“I think Democrats really won’t go for that, most of it,” he said, referring to Trump’s offer. “I don’t think that outrage was all feint.”