White House proposes path to citizenship for 1.8 million people
President Donald Trump is proposing giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion for his long-promised wall and a host of other strict immigration reforms, according to a White House framework proposed Thursday.
In what the White House framed as a “dramatic concession” and “compromise,” Trump would accept a path to citizenship not just for the roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants were covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when it was ended. But the proposal would also cover those undocumented immigrants who meet the DACA criteria but did not sign up and even more who would be newly eligible under the proposal’s timeframe requirements — giving legal status and a pathway to citizenship to about 1.8 million people.
In return, the White House would like to see a $25 billion investment in a trust for border infrastructure and technology, as well as more funds for personnel, and an end to family migration beyond spouses and minor children. The diversity visa lottery would also be abolished, though the visas would be reallocated so that the backlog of people already waiting for family visas and high-skilled immigration green cards would be processed.
In what may end up being the most contentious piece of the proposal, the White House is also looking to close “legal loopholes” that will allow it to deport more immigrants, specifically as it relates to undocumented immigrants from countries that don’t border the United States — which would likely include changes in immigration enforcement authority that would be virtually impossible for Democrats to swallow.
The White House official sold the plan as a “compromise position” that it believes would get 60 votes in the Senate — a point White House officials underscored multiple times on Thursday — and then could be “sent over to the House for additional improvement and modification.”
One senior White House official told conservative outside groups, surrogates and congressional officials in a call Thursday that the bill “should make Democrat support to get to 60 votes a given.”
“This is legislation that really represents a bipartisan consensus point. It is extremely generous in terms of the DACA piece and then fulfills all four of the President’s priorities,” a senior White House official told reporters on Thursday. “This bill is right down the center in terms of public opinion.”
Senior White House officials who briefed reporters Thursday on the framework also expressed a pointed rejection of the Durbin-Graham bill that the White House rejected in recent weeks.
One official quipped that an agreement on immigration between Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, is “like announcing the sun has risen and there’s fish in the ocean.”
Another official also said that despite suggestions from Senate Democrats, the White House’s framework is “galaxies apart” from what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed to the President over the weekend.
White House officials said Thursday they expect lawmakers on Capitol Hill to “digest” the proposal and formulate legislative text to bring to the floor in the Senate and called it “kind of the bottom line for the President.”
But the officials signaled that while the framework should pass muster in the Senate, they did not expect it to be the basis for legislation in the House.
Instead, one senior White House official said it is “probably likely” that the two chambers will pass different bills and “end up in conference.”
The White House’s portrayal of the framework as a broad-based compromise is likely to face skepticism on Capitol Hill, where immigration reform has long been contentiously disputed. While the proposal’s pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants will earn plaudits from many Democrats, the framework also includes several hardline immigration reforms that Democrats may find hard to swallow.
Some conservatives are also likely to oppose the pathway to citizenship that Trump is endorsing.
Those eligible will be able to become citizens in 10 to 12 years, Trump said on Wednesday, contingent on meeting work and education requirements the White House is leaving up to Congress to establish.
“If they do a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen,” Trump said Thursday.
And the clock is ticking down for lawmakers to find a solution, with DACA protections expiring March 5.
If a deal can’t be reached by then, a senior White House official made clear Thursday that those immigrants whose protections expire could be subject to deportation.
“If it doesn’t work then they’ll be illegal immigrants and if they fall into the hands of ICE,” the official said. “They won’t be targeted, but if they fall into the hands of ICE … well they’ll be put into the system … and ultimately could lead to their deportation.”