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Trump's offer: Dreamers protection 'compromise' to end 4-week shutdown

By
Allen Cone
President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the border and the partial government shutdown in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Saturday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the border and the partial government shutdown in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Saturday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Saturday said he would offer extended protections from deportation to some illegal immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for a barrier along Mexico in what he billed as a "major announcement" on border security and the shutdown.

But his "common-sense compromise" drew opposition from political extremes. Democrats are adamant they won't approve any funding for a barrier and some conservative Republicans believe the proposal amounts to amnesty for some immigrants.

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In an effort to "break the logjam and provide a path to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis along the southern border," Trump said during a nationally televised address from the White House that he is backing three years of relief for 700,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as Dreamers. This would allow these men and women who were brought into the country illegally as children continued access to work permits, Social Security numbers and protection from deportation.

However, a U.S. appeals court has imposed an injunction against deporting Dreamers, and it looks like the government will keep the program going for at least 10 more months because the Supreme Court won't likely take up the issue during its current term.

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Another Trump proposal announced Saturday, extending the legal status of 310,000 Temporary Protected Status holders, also must remain in place temporarily because of another federal judge's order. In the humanitarian program, people are legally living and working in the United States as their countries recover from natural disasters and armed conflicts.

Trump, who called his proposal "a compassionate response to our tragedy" of unsecured borders, repeated a request for $800 million for urgent humanitarian assistance, $805 million for drug detection technology, 2,750 new border agents and 75 new immigration judges.

And Central American minors can apply for asylum from their borders. His administration terminated this program shortly after becoming president.

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In exchange, he wants barrier funding along 215 miles of the 1,954-mile border. Originally, he wanted a tall concrete wall but now is in favor of steel with see-through slats. He also says a barrier is not needed along natural borders, including waterways. The total cost of a barrier could be upwards of $25 billion.

"It's a common-sense compromise both parties should embrace," he said from the Diplomatic Reception Room. "The radical left will never control our borders."

He noted Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would introduce the legislation in the Senate in an effort to end the four-week partial government shutdown, including Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

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"I've met with Democrats," Trump said during the 13-minute speech. "I hope they will offer their enthusiastic support. I think many will."

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the proposal was a "non-starter" in statement before the president's speech.

"His proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people's lives," Pelosi said in a statement. "It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter. For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports."

The Democrats regained control of the House in January after major gains in the mid-terms.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who co-sponsored the BRIDGE Act to help Dreamers, said in a statement Saturday that he would not support the proposal to reopen the government and he doesn't believe there are enough votes in the Senate, which requires 60 for passage. The GOP has a 53-47 edge in the chamber. "Our immigration system is broken but your shutdown has broken our government," Durbin wrote on Twitter.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted: "A fantastic proposal Mr. President! Let's get it done."

But Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who was stripped by the GOP of his committee positions for racist comments about white supremacy, tweeted: "NO AMNESTY 4 a wall!"

Trump said he is fulfilling a campaign pledge to stop the illegal traffic of migrants, and his proposal is based on ideas from border agents and other professionals.

"They know what they are doing," Trump said.

The president repeated claims of dangers without the barrier, including illegal immigrants killing U.S. citizens.

He spoke after swearing in five new U.S. citizens. The president described it as "a beautiful ceremony -- a moving reminder of our proud history welcoming legal immigrants to our national family."

He said Americans believe in "a safe and lawful process of immigration that protects our laws. Unfortunately our immigration system has been badly broken for a long time.

"We are now living with this consequence and it is tragic," Trump said.

During a televised national address on Jan. 8, Trump discussed national security from the Oval Office, then traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas two days later. He described it as a "humanitarian and national security crisis on our Southern Border." At the time he called on Democrats to support th wall and end the shutdown.

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Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared after that address and urged an end to the "Trump shutdown."

On Saturday, Pelosi didn't appear on camera but said next week Democrats will pass a package of six bills agreed to by House and Senate negotiators and other legislation to re-open government "so that we can fully negotiate on border security proposals."

The federal government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, largely due to a disagreement between Trump and Congress over the roughly $5.7 billion the president wants to construct the barrier.

Congressional Democrats don't want any funding for the barrier and are refusing to negotiate while the government is shut down. Around 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or working without pay since the shutdown began.

Trump has considered declaring a national emergency, which would enable him to transfer funds to build the wall without congressional approval. Democrats plan to go to court if he bypasses Congress.

The Senate unanimously passed a new stopgap funding bill without the wall money before the shutdown deadline, but the president later changed his mind and said he won't sign the legislation. The Democratic-controlled House later also approved the legislation without border funding.

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Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the date the government first shut down in December.

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