U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday sent Congress his immigration legislation priorities, including building a controversial border wall, speeding up deportations and dramatically increasing the number of officials involved in enforcement.
The administration tied these priorities to Democrats’ desire to provide legal protection to some 800,000 immigrants known as “Dreamers” who came to the country illegally as children and were covered by an amnesty brought by former President Barack Obama that Trump scrapped last month.
But Trump administration officials said the president will insist on their passage in exchange for supporting legislation that would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
“These priorities are essential to mitigate the legal and economic consequences of any grants or status to DACA recipients,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters. “We’re asking that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients.”
Initiated under President Barack Obama, DACA protected hundreds of thousands of young people from deportation and allowed them to continue working legally in the U.S. Trump announced a phase-out of the program last month, but he has given Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix.
Included on the list of demands: limiting family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and creating a point-based system.
The White House also said it wants to boost fees at border crossings, make it easier to deport gang members and unaccompanied children, and overhaul the asylum system. And it wants new measures to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” which don’t share information with federal immigration authorities, among other proposals.
Democrats vehemently oppose many of the demands laid out in the administration list.
In a joint statement, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the list “goes so far beyond what is reasonable” and “fails to represent any attempt at compromise.
“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,” they wrote.
“If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so,” they said.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, accused the administration of trying to “use Dreamers as bargaining chips to achieve the administration’s deportation and detention goals.”
“Congress should reject this warped, anti-immigrant policy wish list,” he said, adding: “Immigrants are humans; we should craft policies that treat them as such.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokesman Doug Andres said the House immigration working group will review the list and consult with Republican members and the administration.