Trump Hardens Immigration Stance Heading Into Shutdown Talks

Updated on
  • Democrats seek to restore protections for young immigrants
  • White House demands border wall and new visa restrictions
The Democrats are pushing for a DACA deal in the spending bill. Bloomberg’s Kevin Cirilli reports.

President Donald Trump is hardening his demands for a deal to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, a dispute with congressional Democrats that hangs over talks this week to avoid a government shutdown.

Any deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, must also forbid immigrants from sponsoring family members to join them in the U.S., end a program that allots visas to people from countries with low rates of migration to America, and provide money for a wall on the Mexican border, a White House spokesman said Tuesday. The statement echoed 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 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 defense spending. Any effort to bring up issues other than the caps, like immigration, will be considered a distraction, a senior Republican aide said.

Seeking Leverage

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 U.S. as children whom advocates call “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 Program. "We can’t leave any of those issues behind," Schumer said on the Senate floor in December.

Jan. 19 Deadline

The latest in a series of stopgap measures funding the government runs out Jan. 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 Jan. 19 “to avoid significant hardship” for U.S. immigration officials, the business community and Dreamers themselves.

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 wouldn’t 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.

How Trump’s Move Puts Immigrants’ Dreams at Risk: QuickTake Q&A

“President Trump has been clear he wants America First immigration reform in conjunction with any DACA legislation," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said 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 Tuesday to say whether such a list would be forthcoming.

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

For more on the travel ban, check out the Decrypted podcast:

"I think there is an agreement that can be reached," he said in an interview with Fox News on 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 center issue."

— With assistance by Anna Edgerton

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