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Trump offers 3-year extension of protection for ‘dreamers’ in exchange for $5.7 billion for wall; Democrats call it a ‘non-starter’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/19/2019 Katie Zezima, Erica Werner, David Nakamura
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President Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty.

Aiming to end the 29-day partial government shutdown, Trump outlined his plan in a White House address as he sought to revive negotiations with Democrats after weeks of a standoff.

Trump proposed offering a reprieve on his attempts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations, along with building hundreds of miles of barriers on the U.S. southern border and hiring thousands of new law enforcement agents to be deployed there.

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Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will put the legislation on the Senate floor for a vote next week. Trump heralded the package as a bipartisan “compassionate response” that would offer humanitarian relief on the border and curb illegal immigration, and allow the government to reopen.

“This is a common-sense compromise both parties should embrace,” Trump said. He then added: “The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let it happen.”

It’s not clear whether the offer would be enough to break an impasse that has resulted in 800,000 federal workers to be furloughed or forced to work without pay and numerous government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to operate at minimal staffing levels.

The shutdown is now the longest in U.S. government history.

Slideshow by photo services

The ongoing shutdown of some 25 percent of the federal government was triggered by Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to build more than 200 miles of new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Pelosi calls the wall “immoral,” and Democrats are refusing to offer more than $1.3 billion to extend existing funding levels for border barriers and fences. Democrats also frequently point out that Trump long claimed Mexico would pay for the wall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Trump’s proposal a “non-starter” that does not provide a permanent solution for those who qualify under DACA and TPS. She said Democrats will pass legislation to reopen the government next week, after which Congress will negotiate border security. Pelosi said Democrats will also pass six bills agreed to by House and Senate negotiators.

“The President must sign these bills to reopen government immediately and stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown,” Pelosi said.

Trump called his proposal one he hopes “rank-and-file” Democrats will support though many issued statements moments after his 13-minute speech rejecting the plan. The White House has unsuccessfully tried to peel off Democrats with overtures, including inviting some to the White House last week.

Trump’s proposal was pilloried by some of his most fervent supporters, including conservative author and commentator Ann Coulter.

“Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” Coulter tweeted.

Ahead of his remarks from the White House, Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony in the Oval Office for five new Americans, who took the Oath of Allegiance from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The event aimed to underscore Trump’s support of foreigners who enter the country through legal immigration programs, even as his administration has supported policies to slash overall immigration levels.

Democrats have been under pressure from immigrant rights organizations not to give Trump funding for a wall. And Trump’s offer would not provide a path to permanent legal status — or citizenship — that many Democrats have sought in any immigration deal that would dramatically ramp up border security measures.

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said Trump and McConnell “must open the government today.”

Saturday’s proposals are a reverse for Trump, who has indicated for weeks that he would not entertain an extension of DACA, which began in 2012 under President Obama and has offered renewable work permits to immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who entered the country illegally as children. Trump had said he was hoping the Supreme Court would hear an appeal to a lower court’s injunction on his attempt to end DACA and, if the high court ruled in his favor, that ending the program would give him more leverage in talks with Democrats over the future of the Dreamers.

But the Supreme Court signaled Friday that it might not take the case. That would mean that Trump would remain unable to end DACA, which covers about 700,000 immigrants, and some Dreamer groups have called on Democrats not to cut a deal for the wall.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the humanitarian crisis on the Southern border and the shutdown as Vice President Mike Pence looks on at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas © Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the humanitarian crisis on the Southern border and the shutdown as Vice President Mike Pence looks on at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

On TPS, Trump has declared an end to a program that has offered hundreds of thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan the right to remain in the United States after they were uprooted from their home countries during national disasters and other emergencies. But Trump’s move also has been enjoined by federal courts.

At the White House on Saturday morning, Trump continued to point to a new caravan of Central American migrants crossing into Mexico from Guatemala that was the subject of segments this week on “Fox & Friends” as one reason for the wall.

“If we had a wall, we wouldn’t have a problem. But we don’t, we have too many open areas,” he said.

Absent negotiations, the impasse has devolved into bickering between Trump and Pelosi, offering little comfort to the federal workers who have gone without pay since Dec. 22 and have been forced to rely on food banks or other jobs.

The fight escalated on Saturday, with Trump telling reporters he hopes Pelosi can “come along and realize . . . that walls work.” Trump was asked if the shutdown had become too personal between himself and Pelosi.

“It’s not personal for me,” he said. “She’s being controlled by the radical left, which is a problem.”

A spokesman for Pelosi did not immediately return a response for comment.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Saturday that Democrats have shown repeatedly in the past that they’re willing to provide border security funding — but stressed that President Trump must first agree to reopen the government before such discussions can resume.

“Reopen government and we’ve shown you by our past actions and past votes that we’re willing to have a discussion,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Kaine, the Democratic Party’s 2016 vice-presidential candidate, said the dollar amount Trump is requesting to build a wall isn’t the problem — it’s how to best use the funding.

“The dollar amount has not been the challenge, the issue is do you use the money in the right way or the wrong way, and I think what our goal is we don’t want to use the money the wrong way,” said the senator.

A proxy battle — a political clash like few others — emerged over the past week between the leaders of two of the nation’s three branches of government as they leveraged the powers of their offices against one another, all the while trying to shape public sentiment.

Pelosi suggested this past week that Trump reschedule his Jan. 29 State of the Union address on Capitol Hill due to security concerns stemming from the nearly month-long partial government shutdown. He retaliated with a last-minute cancellation of her trip with other House members to Afghanistan using a military aircraft.

On Friday Pelosi accused Trump of putting herself and fellow lawmakers in danger by publicizing their plans to travel to Afghanistan, forcing them to abandon the trip. Pelosi said the State Department had determined that the trip, even using commercial aircraft, could no longer be made without endangering the safety of lawmakers, as well as of troops and support personnel due to the president’s actions.

“You never give advance notice of going into a battle area — you just never do it,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at the Capitol. “Perhaps the president’s inexperience didn’t have him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that, because that’s very dangerous.”

The White House has forcefully denied Pelosi’s claims. A person close to the White House called The Washington Post on Friday morning to alert a reporter to Pelosi’s travel plans, speaking on the condition of anonymity

The White House and Democrats are in agreement on the need for border security generally and even on some specifics of what that would entail — just not on the wall.

Next week the House will take up another batch of spending bills aimed at reopening the government without funding the wall that will include some spending directed to the border. One bill will include $563 million for immigration judges, the same figure Trump has requested; another will include $524 million to expand facilities at ports of entry along the border.

katie.zezima@washpost.com

Paige Winfield Cunningham, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Paul Kane, and Damian Paletta contributed to this report.

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