Thousands of immigrant "DREAMers" still await action on a possible pathway to avoid deportation. Democrat lawmakers are hoping assurances from Republicans, made for the stopgap budget deal, to take up the issue soon will bring action. (Jan. 23) AP
A deadlock over the future of undocumented "DREAMers" that prompted the weekend government shutdown appears just as intractable now that Democrats and Republicans have agreed to reopen federal offices and kick the dispute down the road to Feb. 8.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump immediately began meeting with Republican legislators on Monday to restart the immigration negotiations. "I don't think that there's a whole lot of daylight between where we are and where the Democrats are," she said.
Yet Trump keeps shifting on the issue. At one point, he said he wanted to pass a "bill of love" to protect undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children. But last week he rejected a bipartisan Senate proposal to do that, saying the plan did not provide enough steps to slow the legal and illegal entry of other immigrants.
Adding to the uncertainty, the Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to quickly decide whether to hear a case this spring that could reinstate the program that protects DREAMers.
Lawmakers agree that a compromise should include several components. Here is a look at them and the difficulty of reaching agreement on each one:
Protections for DREAMers
More than 780,000 DREAMers have been allowed to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created under President Obama. Many worry about their future under President Trump. USA TODAY
In September, President Trump ended President Barack Obama's DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — program, which has protected nearly 800,000 DREAMers from deportation and granted them work permits. Their DACA status will start expiring in March.
Republicans and Democrats generally agree that DREAMers should be protected. But figuring out the types of protections and how many should be covered is key to striking a deal.
The White House has focused on the 800,000 approved for DACA, while Democrats and some Republican senators want to protect up to 2.1 million DREAMers from deportation, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute.
Democrats want DREAMers to have a path to citizenship, but many House Republicans are only willing to provide long-term legal protections so long as the DACA immigrants are denied eventual citizenship.
Trump's "big, beautiful" wall along the southern border with Mexico was a rallying cry of his presidential campaign and an important goal he has pushed since. The question now is how much money Democrats are willing to give him.
The Department of Homeland Security has requested $18 billion over 10 years to build more than 300 miles of new walls and fences along the southern border, and repair pieces of the approximately 700 miles of existing wall and other barriers along a 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
Democrats have balked at such a high cost, especially since it includes no mechanism to force Mexico to pay for it, as Trump has repeatedly promised and Mexico has repeatedly refused to do. Even Senate Republicans offered a far lower figure — about $2 billion — when they approached Trump in the days leading up to the shutdown.
Ever since a pair of terrorist attacks by legal immigrants in New York City in recent months, Trump has pushed hard to limit entry of foreigners as part of a DACA deal.
One change he wants to end is the ability of U.S. citizens and green card holders to sponsor extended families for visas, a long-standing provision Republicans decry as "chain migration" and Democrats view as "family reunification."
The man who botched his attempt to detonate pipe bombs in New York City entered the U.S. from Bangladesh under a visa U.S. citizens can use to bring siblings, nieces and nephews into the U.S. Trump wants to end that right.
The upcoming negotiations will determine where to draw the line. Should spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens still be allowed to enter the country? What about parents and adult children, or siblings and their children?
Another question is whether the new limitations will only affect DREAMers or all naturalized Americans who want to sponsor extended family.
Trump has also called for an end to the diversity visa lottery created by Congress in 1990 that now grants up to 50,000 visas a year to people from countries under-represented in the U.S. In recent years, most have come from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
That program fell into Trump's cross hairs after eight people were killed and dozens injured in a truck rampage in New York by a man who had entered the U.S. from Uzbekistan through the diversity program.
Most Democrats seem willing to terminate the program in exchange for DREAMer protections, but how is still in dispute. Some Senate Republicans propose shifting the 50,000 visas to other immigration programs, while many House Republicans want to eliminate them entirely.
Hard-line Republican demands
The House is pushing a longer list of immigration enforcement measures as part of any deal that complicates efforts to strike a compromise. They include:
- A crackdown on "sanctuary cities" that don't fully cooperate with federal immigration efforts.
- A requirement that all U.S. businesses use a government computer system to verify the immigration status of job applicants.
- Hiring 10,000 more border and port agents.
- A 25% reduction in permanent legal status — or green cards — granted each year, which would cut about 260,000 legal immigrants annually.