President’s decision, part of a broader immigration package due to be unveiled next week, hailed as a ‘major breakthrough’

in Washington

Wed 24 Jan 2018 20.59 ESTFirst published on Wed 24 Jan 2018 18.26 EST

Donald Trump speaks to a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.

Donald Trump speaks to a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would support a plan that offered a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children, as part of a broader immigration package that the White House is expected to unveil next week.

Trump made the comments to a group of reporters assembled for a briefing on the president’s immigration plan before he departs to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. According to the Associated Press, Trump said he would be open to allowing certain immigrants to become citizens after “10 or 12 years”.

Trump told reporters he would allow the Dreamers to “morph into” citizens over a period of time.

“Whatever they’re doing, 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.”

Lindsey Graham, one of the Republican Senators deeply involved in the negotiations over immigration, called Trump’s statement “a major breakthrough”.

“I truly appreciate President Trump making it clear that he supports a path to citizenship for Daca recipients,” he said. “This will greatly help the Senate efforts to craft a proposal which President Trump can sign into law.”

Quick guide

What is Daca and who are the Dreamers?

Who are the Dreamers?

Dreamers are young immigrants who would qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (Daca) program, enacted under Barack Obama in 2012. Most people in the program entered the US as children and have lived in the US for years “undocumented”. Daca gave them temporary protection from deportation and work permits. Daca was only available to people younger than 31 on 15 June 2012, who arrived in the US before turning 16 and lived there continuously since June 2007. Most Dreamers are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the largest numbers live in California, Texas, Florida and New York. Donald Trump cancelled the program in September but has also said repeatedly he wants Congress to develop a program to “help” the population.

What will happen to the Dreamers?

Under the Trump administration, new applications under Daca will no longer be accepted. For those currently in the program, their legal status and other Daca-related permits (such as to work and attend college) will begin expiring in March 2018 – unless Congress passes legislation allowing a new channel for temporary or permanent legal immigration status – and Dreamers will all lose their status by March 2020.

Technically, as their statuses lapse they could be deported and sent back to countries many have no familiarity with. It is still unclear whether this would happen. Fear had been rising in the run-up to last week’s announcement. Those with work permits expiring between 5 September 2017 and 5 March 2018 will be allowed to apply for renewal by 5 October.

What does the recent ruling by Judge William Alsup mean?

In his ruling, Alsup ordered the Trump administration to restart the program, allowing Daca recipients who already qualify for the program to submit applications for renewal.

However, he said the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had not previously received protection under the program.

When the Trump administration ended the Daca program, it allowed Daca recipients whose legal status expired on or before 5 March to renew their legal status. Roughly 22,000 recipients failed to successfully renew their legal status for various reasons.

Legal experts and immigration advocates are advising Daca recipients not to file for renewal until the administration provides more information about how it intends to comply with the ruling.

“These next days and weeks are going to create a lot of confusion on the legal front,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which has filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump administration’s termination of Daca.

Was this helpful?

Thank you for your feedback.

Trump had previously rejected the idea of citizenship for the young immigrants as “amnesty”.

According to the AP, a senior White House official immediately clarified the remarks, telling reporters that a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers was only a “discussion point” in the plan that the White House would preview to Congress on Monday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House said the president planned to offer congressional leaders a “legislative framework” that could lead to a compromise deal on immigration, one week after the Senate overcame an impasse to reopen the federal government.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the proposal, set to unveil Monday, would reflect a “compromise that members of both parties can support” and urged the Senate to vote on the measure.

“This framework will fulfill the four agreed-upon pillars: securing the border and closing legal loopholes; ending extended-family chain migration; cancelling the visa lottery; and providing a permanent solution on Daca,” Sanders said during the press briefing on Wednesday. “After decades of inaction by Congress, it’s time we work together to solve this issue once and for all.”

For weeks, lawmakers have struggled to divine what the president wants in an immigration proposal. Trump has at times appeared to be swayed by entreaties from Democrats to close a bipartisan deal, including a pathway to citizenship for the young undocumented immigrants, known as the Dreamers. But the president has soured on various plans after debriefings with his staff, and angrily rebuked several senators who have approached him with proposals.

On Tuesday, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, publicly rescinded his offer to fully fund a wall along the US-Mexico border, another twist in the chaotic negotiations, which are trying to balance the president’s demands and extend protections for the Dreamers, whose legal status was thrown into uncertainty when Trump ended the federal program that shielded them from deportation.

As part of a deal to end the shutdown, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell agreed to a “fair and open” debate on immigration legislation. But liberals and immigrant activists were displeased with the agreement, expressing a profound distrust in the Republican leader.

Asked about the lack of trust, McConnell told reporters: “I intend to keep my word.”

A Daca recipient joins a rally outside the US Capitol amid the government shutdown.

A Daca recipient joins a rally outside the US Capitol amid the government shutdown. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Images

Nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants are shielded from deportation by the program known as Daca [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. The Trump administration announced an end to the program in September, but offered a six-month grace period for Congress to broker new protections.

Hardline conservatives have panned a provision for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as “amnesty”, but public polling suggest that a majority of Americans think the immigrants should be allowed to become citizens if they meet certain requirements.

In that time, Trump demanded lawmakers craft a “bill of love” that protects the Dreamers and pledged to sign any package Congress sent him. But Trump balked a week before the shutdown, when a bipartisan group of six lawmakers proposed a plan that would have paired a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and billions for border security .

During a meeting, he referred to several Africa and Caribbean nations as “shithole countries”, according to one senator, and wondered why they couldn’t instead accept more immigrants from countries like Norway. The ensuing furor deepened recriminations and imperiled the talks.

On Tuesday, Sanders repeated the administration’s view of the proposal, telling reporters the plan was “totally unacceptable”. She said that she did not believe lawmakers and the White House were that “far apart” and reiterated the administration’s support for enshrining Daca into law.

Later that night, Trump taunted the Democratic leader: “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no Daca.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here