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US immigration

US government could be heading for shutdown as Trump hardens stance on immigration

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 7:12am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 5:39am

President Donald Trump is hardening his demands for a deal to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation ahead of talks this week to avoid a government shutdown.

Republicans and Democrats are now at loggerheads over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era law that protects adults who were brought into the US illegally as children.

Trump says that any deal to save DACA must include money for a wall on the Mexico border and also bring the axe down on a pair of programmes intended to aid legal immigration into the US.

Those programmes allow immigrants to sponsor family members to join them in the US and allot visas to people from countries with low rates of migration to America.

The demand was made by a White House spokesman on Tuesday, echoing a Trump tweet from last week.

“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 etc,” the president wrote on Friday. “We must protect our Country at all cost!”

On Tuesday he added, “Democrats are doing nothing for DACA – just interested in politics.”

Two top White House officials – Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Legislative Director Marc Short – will meet with congressional leaders of both parties on Wednesday to discuss a spending plan for fiscal 2018, an issue Congress repeatedly punted last year.

The White House and Capitol Hill Republicans say the meeting will be limited to the issue of caps on domestic and defence spending.

Any effort to bring up issues other than the caps, like immigration, will be considered a distraction, a senior Republican aide said.

But the Democratic leaders are under pressure from Latinos to use the spending legislation as leverage to force Trump’s hand on protection for the young immigrants brought to the US as children, whom advocates call “Dreamers.”

‘Amnesty Don’: how President Trump risks infuriating his base by compromising on ‘Dreamers’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi plan to do just that and raise DACA, among other issues, according to a Democratic aide and a letter that Pelosi sent Tuesday to House Democrats.

Democratic leaders have pushed for a “global” agreement that encompasses spending caps and immigration, as well as deals on disaster relief, electronic surveillance and the Children’s Health Insurance Programme.

“We can’t leave any of those issues behind,” Schumer said on the Senate floor in December.

The latest in a series of stopgap measures funding the government runs out on January 19. Some Democrats are determined to use the next deadline to restore the DACA protections.

Three former Homeland Security secretaries – Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson – backed such a move on Wednesday.

In a joint letter to congressional leaders, they urged lawmakers to pass legislation by January 19 “to avoid significant hardship” for US immigration officials, the business community and Dreamers themselves.

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

Trump announced in September that he would end the Obama-era policy – upending the lives of almost 1 million young immigrants – but he has held open the possibility of signing legislation restoring it. 

His demands for such a bill have broadened and hardened. At one point, he suggested it would not even have to include money for a border wall, according to Democrats.

In October, the White House gave lawmakers a seven-page wish list in exchange for making DACA protections permanent.

In recent days, the administration has focused on demands for a wall and elimination of categories of visas.

“President Trump has been clear he wants America First immigration reform in conjunction with any DACA legislation,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Tuesday.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last month promised lawmakers a list of policy changes the administration would ask for in exchange for protections for Dreamers, but the White House declined on Tuesday to say whether such a list would be forthcoming.

Still, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, said on Tuesday that the two sides could come to an agreement and avert a shutdown.

“I think there is an agreement that can be reached,” he said Tuesday. “It’s got to start with border security, though, and putting money in place to start building the wall as President Trump said.

“He campaigned on this and he won the presidency with this being a front and centre issue.”