The White House says it’s “anxious” to get an immigration deal through Congress based on the administration’s framework, with a key official arguing that conservative support for their legalization plan will be there.
“We started by saying we want to protect the 690,000 people who have permits under DACA, meaning people age 16 to 36 who have work permits who are in this country, producing, contributing to our economy. We, of course, want to protect them. We don’t want to send them away,” White House legislative director Marc Short told Fox News Sunday, insisting that the framework includes bipartisan concerns. “But Democrats said that population should be larger. We should consider those who are eligible but were afraid to apply. We should also go back to 2012, which is when Obama put in place his unconstitutional order.”
“The president did all of those things because he saying it’s time that we fix the other issues, too,” he added. “Americans want to keep our border secure, end chain migration and the visa lottery program.”
In the legislative framework released Jan. 25, the Trump administration requested “the minimum tools necessary to mitigate the rapidly growing surge of illegal immigration,” including a $25 billion trust fund “for the border wall system, ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements and enhancements.”
The plan also called for closing “crippling personnel deficiencies by appropriating additional funds to hire new DHS personnel, ICE attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals,” along with “hiring and pay reforms to ensure the recruitment and retention of critically needed personnel.”
Illegal entry should be deterred “by ending dangerous statutorily imposed catch-and-release and by closing legal loopholes that have eroded our ability to secure the immigration system and protect public safety,” the White House continued, and visa overstays should be subject to “efficient removal.”
In early September, President Trump rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with a March 5 deadline for lawmakers to agree on legislation to spare hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the country as children from potential deportation. In January, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Judge William Alsup ruled that DACA must remain in place while multiple lawsuits against Trump’s order play out in court. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with the Trump administration, asked the Supreme Court to overturn Alsup’s ruling.
The White House framework calls for providing “legal status for DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, adjusting the timeframe to encompass a total population of approximately 1.8 million individuals.” It includes a “10-12 year path to citizenship, with requirements for work, education and good moral character.”
In return, the administration wants to limit family sponsorships, for citizens and permanent residents alike, to spouses and minor children only, and eliminate the visa lottery while reallocating visas “to reduce the family-based ‘backlog’ and high-skilled employment ‘backlog.'”
Short told Fox that the White House is “anxious to get a deal.”
“We’ve been trying to get a deal,” he said, warning that if another court overrules Alsup “they are not going to have the six-month grace period that this president offered Congress to fix it.”
“If the courts overrule, that program will end immediately.”
Despite early backlash from some conservatives, Short predicted that the right wing will “recognize the benefit to really securing our border and helping to fix these long-term problems.”
Short told CBS’ Face the Nation that eliminating extended family reunification is “trying to protect the nuclear family.”
“What’s happening right now in our visa system is you’re providing visas for aunts and uncles and siblings that continue to go on, as it’s called chain migration,” he said. “So therefore there’s a four-million backlog so you can’t get children and spouses in because you’re taking care of so many different distant cousins.”
“If you just do border security and DACA, all you’re going to do is create an incentive for more people to try to flood the border because they’re going to say, I’ll get citizenship in the future, too. You need to fix it all. There’s lots of things we’re not doing. We put aside a lot of our interior enforcement requests to say, let’s keep this more focused. This is a very focused, rational proposal,” the legislative director argued.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Calif.), a border lawmaker who co-authored DREAMer legislation with Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), told CBS “a narrow bill is most important, the thing that we can get through our Congress, both houses, in the House and Senate, because the more things you add, you start creating a coalition of opposition,” and a strictly DACA bill could get “done in the next couple of days.”
Aguilar said he and Hurd are “very confident” that theirs “is the only bill that would have 218 votes on the House floor.”
Their Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act, which currently has 53 co-sponsors, protects DACA beneficiaries from deportation while achieving operational control of the border by 2020, limiting Central American migration and addressing delays and inefficiencies in immigration courts. The bill does not include border wall funding.
“We have had numbers of discussions with our colleagues. But this is the type of bipartisan approach that the American public wants to see. And it’s important that, if we’re going to fix this DACA issue and have border security, this is the type of narrow focus that can get 218 votes and can get to the president’s desk,” Aguilar said.
“The fact that the president has come out and said ‘let’s make sure that there’s a permanent legislative fix for 1.8 million kids,’ I think that also gives some credence to many of the proposals that we’re forwarding in the USA Act,” Hurd added.