Trump’s plan offers citizenship path for 1.8 million
The White House unveiled a proposal Thursday that provides a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants living in the country illegally, in exchange for new restrictions on legal immigration and $25 billion in border security.
The plan was applauded by some in Congress, but blasted by conservative activists as “amnesty” and slammed by a slew of Democrats, who accused President Donald Trump of holding “Dreamers” hostage to his hard-line immigration agenda.
Senior White House officials cast the plan as a centrist compromise that could win support from both parties and enough votes to pass the Senate. But it comes with a long list of concessions that many Democrats, and also conservative Republicans, especially in the House, may find impossible to swallow.
The plan would provide a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 690,000 younger immigrants protected from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – as well as hundreds of thousands of others who independent estimates say qualify for the program but never applied.
Trump announced last year that he was doing away with the program, but gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix.
The plan would not allow parents of those immigrants to seek lawful status, the officials said.
In exchange, Trump’s plan would dramatically overhaul the legal immigration system. Immigrants would only be allowed to sponsor their spouses and underage children to join them in the U.S., and not their parents, adult children or siblings. The officials said it would only end new applications for visas, allowing those already in the pipeline to be processed. Still, immigration activists said the move could cut legal immigration in half.
It would also end a visa lottery aimed at diversity, which drew Trump’s attention after the New York City truck attack last year, redirecting the allotment to bringing down the existing backlog in visa applications.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plan before its release.
On Wednesday, Trump said he was open to a pathway to citizenship for the younger immigrants. “We’re going to morph into it,” Trump told reporters. “It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.” It was a reversal for the president, who had previously said he opposed a pathway to citizenship for Dreamer immigrants.
Under the plan, recipients could have their legal status revoked due to criminal behavior or national security threats, the officials said, and eventual citizenship would require still-unspecified work and education requirements – and a finding that the immigrants are of “good moral character.”
The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute said it believes the largest share of the White House’s 1.8 million people who’d be eligible for citizenship – 1.3 million – are people who currently meet all of DACA’s eligibility requirements. These include years in the U.S., their ages now and when they entered this country, and whether they have a high school or equivalent education.
Another 400,000 are people who’d be eligible for DACA protection but for their education. And 100,000 more are people who are under age 15 – the minimum age allowed for most people requesting protection under the program.
Trump ended the DACA program in September, setting a March 5 deadline for Congress to provide legal protections or the program’s recipients would once again be subject to deportation. The officials said Trump would only sign legislation providing those protections if the other immigration changes he is proposing are implemented.
Trump earlier this month had deferred to a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to craft an immigration proposal, saying he would sign whatever they passed. But as talks on Capitol Hill broke down – in part because of controversy Trump ginned up using vulgar language to describe African countries – the White House decided to offer its own framework.