President Donald Trump could support a three-year extension for the Obama-era Deferred Action fo Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for three years of border wall funding without gaining other top immigration priorities, unnamed GOP officials told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Trump insisted in January he would not accept amnesty for thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children without a deal that included border wall funding, tougher immigration enforcement measures, and an end to chain migration and the visa lottery programs.
Federal offices shut down for a weekend earlier this year when Democrats refused to support a short-term funding bill without DACA amnesty and Republicans refused to include it without Trump’s immigration priorities.
But The Post reported that senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and legislative affairs director Marc Short are leading the talks for a simpler immigration deal as part of a spending bill with a March 23 deadline.
Trump’s reported immigration shift alarmed immigration enforcement advocates who believe caving into Democrats’ DACA pressure in exchange for border wall funding alone is a mistake.
“Although a physical barrier on the southern border is an absolute necessity, a lengthy extension of DACA for border wall funding is a poor bargain,” Matthew J. O’Brien, director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told LifeZette.
“If President Trump proceeds with this proposal, he is likely to give the very voters who elected him the impression that he has abandoned them in favor of nonvoting foreigners who have violated our immigration laws,” O’Brien continued. “And kicking the can down the road does nothing to resolve the mess created by the Obama administration.”
O’Brien said it is “distressing” that a GOP president who “ran on an immigration enforcement platform” in 2016 “appears to be moving ever closer to meeting unreasonable Democratic demands for a full amnesty for all illegal aliens.”
O’Brien also blasted Republican lawmakers for acting as though the DACA program was “a legitimate exercise of presidential authority” instead of a “usurpation” of the constitutional legislative process.
“It seems absurd that the American people may wind up saddled with a version of some type of DREAM [Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act] legislation while Republicans are in control of the House, Senate, and White House,” O’Brien said.
But Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Congress for stonewalling his request for border wall funding. During a trip to survey border wall prototypes in California Tuesday, the president once again renewed his calls for funding.
“But the border wall is truly our first line of defense,” Trump said. “It will save thousands and thousands of lives, save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing crime, drug flow, welfare fraud, and burdens on schools and hospitals.”
“The wall will save hundreds of billions of dollars — many, many times what it’s going to cost,” Trump added. “And I want to again call on Congress to deliver a budget that protects our homeland and properly funds all of our law enforcement needs.”
But Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, told LifeZette that “narrowing the parameters of a deal on DACA to a temporary amnesty in exchange for an equal number of years of border wall funding might seem like an expedient thing to do, but it’s still bad policy.”
“Even a temporary amnesty will be costly for taxpayers, and is likely to inspire more illegal immigration,” Vaughan said. “We need the border wall to help prevent that, but we also need interior enforcement, too, because about 40 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays, and they won’t be stopped by the wall.”
Trump should demand that Congress deliver on all of the immigration enforcement promises he made to the American people on the campaign trail before accepting permanent or temporary DACA amnesty, immigration enforcement advocates said.
“It’s clear that too many members of Congress aren’t yet on board with cuts to legal immigration to give relief to Americans who’ve been displaced from jobs, but these enforcement items are common sense and are as important as the wall, so at least some of them must also be part of any DACA deal,” Vaughan said.