President Donald Trump sent a list of “immigration priorities” to Congress on October 8 in exchange for granting greater legal protections to recipients of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama signed an executive order as part of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which gave young immigrants the right to reside and work in the United States but did not provide a path to citizenship. Trump’s latest announcement may affect the 800,000 Dreamers, beneficiaries of DACA.
In his letter, Trump called for Congress to complete and fund the southern border wall, tighten the asylum system, hire more customs agents, stop funding sanctuary cities, and other restrictive immigration policies. According to White House Legislative Director Marc Short, these priorities “fulfill the president’s promise to advance immigration reform that puts the need of American workers first.”
On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s initial plans to phase out DACA. Sessions claimed that the program “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” However, the libertarian think tank CATO Institute calculated that rescinding DACA would cost $60 billion to the federal government and reduce economic growth by $280 billion over the next decade.
In conjunction with the president’s letter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said that Congress should “come up with a permanent solution.” Writing for NPR, Tamara Keith suggested that the latest set of demands diverges from Trump’s previous promises because his letter to Congress asks for a permanent “legislative fix for the DACA program.” Keith views the statement as a way to avoid taking responsibility for political blowback.
The letter contradicts an agreement reached in early September between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “to enshrine the protections of DACA into law and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.” In response to Trump’s recent demands, Pelosi called them “trash” at a press event.
The president’s demands also put Republicans in a difficult political situation. According to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), there is “widespread bipartisan support for legislation that would provide some measure of protection to children who are brought to this country through no decision of their own.” Similarly, conservative Republicans have drafted their own policies for immigration reform. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Succeed Act, which would allow families to obtain citizenship if they adhered to “stringent requirements, according to Politico.