Ever since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, their loved ones, and advocates for immigrant rights have been concerned about the fate of young immigrants who have avoided deportation under the Obama-era program. For months, there has been a near-constant back and forth between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill about what will become of Dreamers following an announcement from Trump that Congress has until March to sort it all out. Now, Trump is saying he’s open to a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, and even expanding the number of beneficiaries, but there’s a huge catch.
There are a few catches, actually. But first, here’s what Trump says he and hard-right Republicans in Congress are potentially willing to offer on DACA. In an interview that aired Friday, the president told CNBC that he’s willing to agree to a path to citizenship for around 1.8 undocumented young people who arrived to the United States as children. There are currently around 800,000 people who are enrolled in DACA. On Wednesday, the president also said that undocumented young people “not to worry” about being deported, even as ICE has detained minors with serious illnesses and the Trump administration has tried to prevent undocumented teens from getting abortions. He also said that DACA recipients could “morph into” citizens in “10 to 12 years.”
Trump, who is very prone to changing his mind (before he said that Congress could solve DACA itself in September, he first announced that he planned to rescind the program altogether), says now that he’s willing to compromise on DACA, but he’s asking for a lot in return. First, the president is asking for a $25 billion trust fund to be put in place to build a border wall separating the US from Mexico. The border wall is one of the president’s signature campaign promise, and Democrats have so far been staunchly opposed to increasing physical infrastructure at the border.
The other major ask Trump is going after in his DACA deal is an end to so-called chain migration, also called family reunification. The White House started explicitly calling for an end to what it is calling “chain migration” in December, increasing the concern among immigrants and immigrant rights advocates. Trump is also asking for a decrease in the number of available spots in the diversity visa lottery in favor of allowing visas based on “merit” in an attempt to cut down on legal immigration in addition to reducing the number of undocumented immigrants living in the US.
None of these policies — $25 billion for the wall, an end to family reunification, and en end to the diversity visa lottery—are likely to sit well with Democrats in Congress, some of whom continue to insist on a “clean” deal for undocumented immigrant youth. Some Dreamers are also angry and concerned about the deal the president is proposing.
Juan Escalante, a Dreamer and immigrant advocate penned an op-ed for HuffPo Friday, calling the president’s proposition on DACA a “racist ransom note.” Escalante writes that he’s not surprised to see the president continue to press for a reduction in overall immigration, and adds that the wall is “just a monument to [Trump’s] racism and xenophobia.” More advocates for immigration rights have already been protesting the Trump administration over policies they say are racist and harmful to immigrant populations, and have also been putting pressure on Democrats.
When Senate Democrats forced a government shutdown late last week over a budget deal that did not include a plan for DACA, some were hopeful that it would force the Republicans into passing legislation that would protect young undocumented immigrants. But the shutdown lasted only three days, and Politico later reported that Senate Democrats would no longer demand a budget that included protections for Dreamers. Immigrant rights activists protested at the offices of several Democrats on Tuesday, Democracy Now! reported, and also demonstrated outside the home of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Some Dreamers are teaming up with Democrats to counter Trump on immigration. Newsweek reports that 24 members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, will each bring a Dreamer to president Trump’s State of the Union address next week. Pelosi has called the White House’s most recent immigration proposal “an act of staggering cowardice which attempts to hold the DREAMers hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme,” according to Newsweek.
The constant back-and-forth from both the president and members of Congress, from both parties, has been exhausting for Dreamers, their families, and their advocates, who hope a resolution that protects undocumented immigrants is reached soon. But since Trump has repeatedly changed his position on DACA and the Dreamers, there’s no guarantee anything he says now will remain in place for long as the deadline he gave Congress ticks down.
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(Images via Spencer Platt/Getty Images + Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)