About 690,000 holders of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status could soon face deportation if a deal isn't agreed to when the Obama-era program expires.
The protections – which allowed holders of the status to legally find employment, open bank accounts and live free of the fear of deportation – were axed in March by fiercely anti-immigrant Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump, however, agreed in a dinner meeting with House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to compromise on a deal over the issue that wouldn't be contingent on the construction of a border wall, drawing flak from his immigrant-scapegoating right-wing base.
The package presented on Sunday night – which would see a southern border wall built and the basis laid for mass deportations, among several so-called “principles” – drew rebukes from migrant rights advocates and politicians across Washington, who accused the White House of a deliberate attempt to sabotage a compromise President Donald Trump had personally assured to leading Democrats.
“The administration can't be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans," said Pelosi and Schumer.
DACA holders are frequently referred to as "Dreamers" in reference to their ability to qualify for benefits under the defeated DREAM Act introduced in 2001, a controversial bipartisan bill which would have allowed undocumented youth to earn their citizenship through college attendance or service in the United States Armed Forces.
The hardline proposals emphasize stricter immigration enforcement and include a request for funds to hire 370 more immigration judges, 1,000 attorneys for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, 300 federal prosecutors and 10,000 additional ICE agents to enforce immigration laws.
“By offering our youth up as a bargaining chip towards his own political ends, Trump has made it clear that he has no interest in a real solution for the crisis he himself created when he eliminated DACA,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
“Over and over again, from Charlottesville to Puerto Rico and the border, Trump and his Administration’s cruelty claims the day,” she continued. “We expect our elected leaders to show courage and stop this white supremacist agenda from moving forward.”
The new Trump immigration deal – said to be drawn up by close Sessions associate and senior White House immigration aide Stephen Miller – would likely result in the mass removal of many DACA holders' parents.
“The White House ‘principles’ amount to nothing more than Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller’s Dreamer deportation outline,” the American Civil Liberties Union said. "Miller’s wishlist of anti-immigrant policies is designed to scuttle progress for Dreamers and is afoul with unconstitutional 'reforms.'”
“Members of Congress of both parties who want to resolve the status of undocumented immigrant youth should recognize that these policies are a non-starter and get back to work on behalf of the vast majority of Americans who want to get something constructive done instead,” the group added.
The administration is also calling for tighter standards for those seeking U.S. asylum, denial of federal grants to "sanctuary cities" that restrict the facilitation of ICE enforcement and removal operations, and a requirement that employers use an electronic verification system known as "E-Verify" to keep the undocumented from securing jobs.
The White House's wish list targets the flow of unaccompanied minors into the United States. It would require such children to be treated the same, regardless of their countries of origin "so long as they are not victims of human trafficking and can be safely returned home or removed to safe third countries," the White House documents said.
It would expand the list of "inadmissible aliens" to include members of gangs, those who have been convicted of an aggravated felony, and former spouses and children of drug and human traffickers if they receive benefits from such behavior.
“We are not surprised by the Administration’s immigration priorities because white supremacy has defined his agenda since before he took office. What really surprises us is the short-sightedness of members of Congress who are willing to destroy families and entire communities with these political games,” said Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented mother of a DACA recipient and an organizer of the We Belong Together campaign.
Republicans in Congress have introduced several bills that include aspects of Trump’s ideas, but migrant rights groups and many Democrats see the proposals as too harsh.
The plan also seeks to reduce the number of people who overstay their visas and reform how green cards that establish legal permanent residents are granted.
“We want Congress to know that immigrant mothers like me are not backing down on our position either,” Vizguerra added. “Our families are and will always be our main priority. We will never accept any initiative that treats our children as second class citizens while using them as bargaining chips to deport their parents, terrorize families and communities at the border, and lock up children and youth who come to our border fleeing life-threatening violence and extreme poverty.”
According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, 82 percent of voters – including almost 70 percent of Republicans – believe that the DACA youth, who arrived in the United States without authorization as minors, should be able to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship.
The White House has made clear it would not be pushing for DACA holders to obtain U.S. citizenship, only legal status, in a potential deal.
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