Trump supports GOP immigration plan
Trump rejects limited approach to ‘dreamers.’
President reiterated his support just as a bipartisan group of senators said they’re close to releasing an alternative plan.
President WASHINGTON —
Donald Trump reiterated his support Wednesday for a Republican plan to revamp the nation’s immigration system and threatened to veto any other proposal - just as a bipartisan group of senators said they’re on the verge of releasing an alternative plan.
In a White House statement, Trump urged the Senate to back the proposal, saying it accomplishes his vision for immigration. At the same time, the president rejected any limited approach that deals only with “dreamers” - immigrants who have been in the country illegally since they were children - and border security.
Trump’s full-throated endorsement of legislation unveiled this week by a GOP group led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, comes as a group of bipartisan senators worked on a possible solution to the intractable issue that could earn enough support in the closely divided Senate.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who has been co-hosting the bipartisan talks with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and about 20 other senators, said that the group should have a proposal ready to introduce by late afternoon.
“We’ll have something and it’ll have quite a few co-sponsors - bipartisan,” he said, declining to share other details.
Even if the group unveils a long-anticipated proposal, there is no guarantee that it will earn a vote on the Senate floor, or the requisite 60 votes needed to advance legislation.
And Trump’s latest warnings might deter members of both parties anxious about debating such an emotionally fraught issue at the start of an election year.
Trump said in his statement that he is “asking all senators, in both parties, to support the Grassley bill and to oppose any legislation that fails to fulfill these four pillars - that includes opposing any short-term ‘BandAid’ approach.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also has backed the GOP plan, and most Republicans appeared to be rallying behind the proposal by Grassley and six other GOP senators Tuesday.
It fulfills Trump’s calls to legalize 1.8 million dreamers, immediately authorizes spending at least $25 billion to bolster defenses along the U.S.-Mexico border, makes changes to family-based legal immigration programs and ends a diversity lottery system used by immigrants from smaller countries.
On a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials said the president had made significant concessions to Senate Democrats. Last fall, Trump terminated the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which had provided temporary work permits to about 690,000 dreamers. White House officials emphasized that Trump’s plan allows far more dreamers to pursue the path to citizenship.
But they added that the border security provisions and the cuts to legal immigration channels are required to stem illegal immigration, reduce a lengthy backlog in the green card process and reduce immigration levels that, the White House argues, have harmed American workers.
“Democrats say, ‘Less for Americans, more for illegal immigrants,’” said one administration official. “We went as far as we could in that direction, but any more and the House would never take up the bill and the president would not be able to sign it. It would be a waste of the Senate’s time and a waste of Americans’ time.”
Lawmakers have been negotiating under the premise that the bulk of DACA work permits will begin to expire March 5 - a deadline Trump set last fall aimed at giving Congress time to develop a legislative solution for DACA recipients. But judges in California and New York have issued temporary injunctions, requiring the Trump administration to restart the program.
The Department of Homeland Security has done so and the Justice Department has taken the unusual step of petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case without it going through the standard appeals process. The high court could announce as early as Friday whether it will do so or kick the matter back to the lower courts, which could mean a longer process until the matter is resolved.
Democrats strongly oppose the Grassley plan.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill unfairly targets family-based immigration and that making such broad changes as part of a plan to legalize fewer than 2 million people “makes no sense.”