Donald Trump proposed legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 1.8 million young, undocumented immigrants in exchange for a significant investment in a border wall, a crackdown on undocumented people and sweeping changes to family-based migration policies.
The president’s new framework was outlined by the White House on Thursday amid anticipation on Capitol Hill Thursday, as immigration advocates braced themselves for potentially “radical” demands from the president in return for support for the so-called Dreamers.
According to the memo provided by the White House, Trump’s proposal would not only grant a conditional pathway to citizenship to the 700,000 Dreamers, who gained temporary legal status under an Obama-era program and whose fate has been hotly debated for months, but also a much broader group of those who were brought to the US illegally as children. Under the plan, the immigrants could become citizens over a 10 to 12 year period if they met certain requirements and maintained in good standing with the law.
The Trump administration is demanding a $25bn “trust fund” to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border and upgrade security at ports of entry and exit along the country’s northern and southern borders.
The proposal places significant restrictions on family-based migration, limiting the family members on whose behalf US citizens could petition to spouses and children, ending categories for siblings and parents. It also calls for the elimination of the state department’s diversity visa lottery, which helps citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to come to the US.
The news came one day after Trump said he would support an immigration plan that would enable Dreamers to “morph into” American citizens over a period of 10 to 12 years, though at that point it was widely understood he was referring only to the 700,000 whose futures he has put in the balance.
The president’s comments Wednesday were treated with cautious optimism by some lawmakers and wariness from others, as his views on immigration have whipsawed.
Lawmakers have spent weeks in complex negotiations on immigration that prompted a shutdown of the federal government earlier this week.
Last September, Trump announced plans to rescind an Obama-era program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), which enabled qualifying young, undocumented immigrants to obtain temporary legal status to work or study in the US and be temporarily protected from deportation.
Trump gave Congress a deadline of 5 March to replace Daca through legislation and has called for any package to also include strict border security measures and reforms to other immigration programs.
“We’re caught in this vortex where Trump won’t negotiate and Republicans won’t support anything that Trump won’t sign,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said: “I think it would be a serious mistake for Congress to pass legislation that granted amnesty and a path to citizenship for those here illegally … It’s not honoring the promises we made to the voters.”
Some staunch conservatives suggested there was a distinction, however, between Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants.
“The people who are in the Daca program were brought here as minors, through no fault of their own, before the age of accountability,” Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, told reporters.
Cotton wants to do away with a lottery program that allocates visas to immigrants from underrepresented countries.
That program was the source of Trump’s controversial suggestion in a private meeting earlier this month that the US should not accept immigrants from parts of Africa and South America, which he referred to as “shithole countries”.
“Trump and Stephen Miller think they can exploit the desperation of Dreamers –whose lives were upended by ending Daca – to enact their nativist wishlist,” said Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigration advocacy group. “We’re not going to roll over.”