Trump vs. Trump May Be Huge Obstacle for White House in Immigration Debate

Latest framework from president for DACA deal offers far more to dreamers than the declaration from last October did

Last week’s White House offer of amnesty to some 1.8 million illegal immigrants who came to America as children would have been unacceptable to guidelines President Donald Trump himself set down in October.

NumbersUSA, which favors stricter enforcement of immigration laws and issuance of fewer green cards, highlighted the major differences between Trump’s immigration statements in October and this month in a point-by-point comparison that also examines three different legislative proposals.

The president surprised supporters last week by offering an amnesty that could lead to citizenship for up to 1.8 million illegal immigrants, including many who were brought as children by their parents to the U.S. A number of Trump’s traditional immigration reform allies have said they will fight any bill along the those lines.

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“NumbersUSA mobilized our huge grassroots army to defeat the 2007 amnesty, and we will do the same” with the current proposal, NumbersUSA President Roy Beck said in a statement.

The organization highlighted the following key differences between Trump’s two plans:

Beneficiaries: In October, shortly after announcing he would end former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump suggested Congress fashion a legislative solution for illegal immigrants who would be losing work permits — about 690,000 people.

The White House now says the president is open to creating a path to citizenship for 1.8 million — far bigger than DACA but not as many as would be eligible for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

Chain migration: Trump demanded in October that any deal include an end to the right of new citizens to sponsor relatives for immigration beyond spouses and minor children. The new proposal also calls for ending “chain migration,” but would grandfather in anyone currently on a family-based visa waiting list. That crucial difference means that annual levels of immigration would not begin to recede for 15 to 20 years.

Diversity visa lottery: Trump’s October plan called for elimination of the program, which randomly awards about 50,000 green cards to applicants from countries with historically low levels of immigration to the United States. Last week’s proposal would end the program but would reallocate those visas to reduce the backlog in other immigration categories.

E-Verify: The October White House immigration principles called for making mandatory the instant background check system that verifies the work eligibility of applicants whom businesses want to hire. The current framework makes no mention of E-Verify.

Other enforcement measures: The current framework calls for more money to hire immigration judges and immigration law enforcement officers. It would close loopholes that make it harder to deport certain groups of illegal immigrants and ensure the detention and removal of gang members.

It also calls for a $25 billion trust fund to pay for the construction of a border wall and other security measures. The set of principles released in October called for similar reforms but a long list of other measures as well, including increased security along the northern border, enhanced penalties for re-entering after deportation, an end to “asylum abuse,” and improved security measures for the issuance of travel visas.

Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, told LifeZette it makes no sense for Trump to weaken his own opening position at the start of negotiations. Beyond those strategic considerations, he said, the sheer size of the amnesty goes far beyond anything the administration previously has discussed.

“At the end of the day, that and the lack of E-Verify are the two most offensive things,” he said. “We don’t like that they basically gave away half the store on this.”

Chmielenski noted a bill offered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would end chain migration after a year. Under last week’s White House proposal, chain migration would continue for up to 20 years as the government worked through current waiting lists.

“We don’t think that’s a fair deal because the 1.8 million DACA people are getting their amnesty immediately,” he said.

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Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, agreed with the NumbersUSA analysis. She said the 1.8 million figure does not appear to be based on objective criteria.

“It sounds to me like they picked a number and are going to fill in the details later,” she said.

For immigration hawks, there is risk in opposing Trump’s latest proposal. If they help defeat it and cannot assemble enough support to pass Goodlatte’s bill, they could help ensure that the status quo continues.

“The status quo is just as dangerous for workers,” Chmielenski acknowledged.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage image: Defend DACA, desaturated, CC BY 2.0, by Molly Adams / Donald Trump Sr. at Citizens United Freedom Summit…, CC BY-SA 4.0, by Michael Vadon; photo credit, article image: Defend DACA, desaturated, CC BY 2.0, by Molly Adams / Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected].