WASHINGTON — The White House sent a long list of demands for immigration legislation to Capitol Hill on Sunday, including building a border wall, hiring thousands of border guards and expanding the use of electronic employment verification systems.
President Trump said his list of proposals "must be included" as part of any legislation addressing the status of immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, and whose deportations were deferred by the Obama administration.
"Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end," Trump said in a letter to lawmakers.
The proposal represented a return to the hard-line stance on immigration that Trump championed during last year's presidential campaign, seemingly pulling back the olive branch he extended to Democratic leaders just three weeks ago. Then, Trump suggested he would be willing to extend legal protection to DREAMers first and "the wall will come later."
Indeed, Democratic leaders rejected the demands Sunday, saying it shows the administration "can't be serious about compromise."
“We told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable," said a joint statement Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the House and Senate minority leaders.
“The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the DREAMers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so," they said.
The DREAM Act would give permanent legal status — and a path to citizenship — for people who arrived in the United States illegally as children.
Trump re-ignited the debate over DREAMers last month when he rescinded the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which used executive action to give them quasi-legal status. DACA recipients who had renewed their status by last week would get a six-month grace period before deportation in order to give Congress time to work out a permanent fix.
The White House plan contains 18 specific policy areas that Trump would like to see in a bill, but childhood arrivals were not part spelled out as one of them. "We're asking that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients," said White House legislative director Marc Short, noting that some immigrants remaining in the United States under DACA are now as old as 36.
Instead, the White House list includes longstanding demands of the Republican Party's immigration hardliners, including expediting removals of unaccompanied children arriving at the border; tightening standards for people allowed to seek asylum in the U.S.; barring immigrants who have been convicted of a range of crimes, including drunk driving; and barring federal grants to so-called "sanctuary cities" that do not turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call Sunday night, Trump administration officials insisted that the proposals came from officials at immigration enforcement agencies.
"My experience tells me we will not stop illegal immigration unless we end the pull factors that drive it," said Tom Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If there are no consequences for entering the country illegally or overstaying a visa, he said, "then there is no integrity in the system."