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US immigration

Donald Trump demands border wall money in exchange for protecting young immigrants

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 2:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 6:11am

President Donald Trump has announced that unless he gets money for his proposed Mexican border wall, he will not extend protections to illegal immigrants who entered the US as children.

Under Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act, such immigrants - termed “Dreamers” - were able to stay in the US provided they fit certain educational, employment, and legal criteria.

But DACA was rescinded in September, and the future of the Dreamers is now tied to funding for Trump’s wall, the president announced on Twitter on Friday.

In the tweet, he also denounced a programme that allows immigrants to sponsor family members to join them in the US and a State Department scheme designed to offer immigrant visas to people from countries with low rates of migration to the United States.

“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration,” Trump said.

The tweet was sent from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida where he is spending the Christmas holidays.

Trump’s justification for ending the DACA programme, he said, was that Justice Department lawyers had concluded it was unconstitutional.

DACA protections are set to expire by March 1 if Congress does not take action.

How President Trump risks infuriating his base by compromising with Democrats on “Dreamers”

Democrats have said they do not support the president’s effort to construct a border wall or impose new limits on the immigration system.

It is expected they will attempt to use the expiration of government funding in January to pressure the White House to strike a deal on immigration that pairs a renewal of DACA with moderate new immigration enforcement measures.

Congressional leaders of both parties are expected to meet White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on January 3 to discuss the spending bill, immigration and other matters.

“We’re not going to negotiate through the press and look forward to a serious negotiation at Wednesday’s meeting when we come back,” Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, said in an email.

Trump has sought to build support for his more significant changes to the immigration system by pointing to recent terror attacks in New York City.

Neither came in through DACA laws, but did gain access through the other two programmes Trump slammed in his tweet.

Akayed Ullah, 27, a green-card holder from Bangladesh accused of detonating a bomb in a New York subway tunnel this month, came to the US in 2011 on a visa available to nieces and nephews of US citizens.

Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old from Uzbekistan who’s accused of mowing down people on a bike path with a pickup truck in New York on Halloween, came to the US in 2010 on a visa obtained through the lottery programme.

“Both terrorists came to our country through the dysfunctional immigration system that we are correcting, rapidly,” Trump said earlier this month during a speech at the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Kelly met Democrats last week in Washington to discuss a path forward on a possible immigration bill.