In a bid to end the monthlong partial shutdown of the U.S. government, President Donald Trump on Saturday offered Democrats compromises on his hard-line immigration policies, but they were knocked down by the opposition party even before he spoke.
“We hope they will offer their enthusiastic support, and I think many will,” Trump said of the Democrats. “The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let it happen.”
In his remarks, broadcast live from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump called for 2,750 more federal agents for immigration control and $5.7 billion for a steel barrier covering 370 kilometers (230 miles) of the border with Mexico.
“It is time to reclaim our future from the extreme voices who fear compromise and demand open borders,” Trump said. “That is why I am here today to break the logjam.”
Pair of programs
Trump offered compromises on two programs his administration has targeted for elimination: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations.
The bipartisan Bridge Act would allow 740,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, often referred to as Dreamers, to keep their work permits and hold off deportations for three more years if their permits have been revoked.
That plan has been strongly opposed by some prominent conservative commentators.
Shortly before Trump spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the offer a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives that were “unacceptable” and said the president’s proposal was “not a good-faith effort.”
“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a nonstarter. For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports,” Pelosi added in her statement.
U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, tweeted: “We will never allow a shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Need to reopen government first.”
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, an Alabama Republican, chastised his Democratic Party colleagues in the House for rejecting Trump’s proposal even before the president announced it, saying Trump “keeps trying to negotiate and Democrats just keep saying no.”
Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, would bring his proposed legislation to the floor next week in order to “immediately reopen our federal government.”
The president made his announcement shortly after he attended a naturalization ceremony in the Oval Office for five new American citizens, highlighting his support for legal immigration.
Trump’s proposal reportedly stems from a Thursday night meeting involving his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner; Vice President Mike Pence; and McConnell to craft an outline for legislation that could win sufficient approval from opposition lawmakers.
McConnell has resisted any immigration-related bills being introduced in the Senate that the president would not agree to sign in advance.
‘Time to make a law’
In a statement released after Trump’s speech, McConnell said, “Everyone has made their point — now it’s time to make a law. I intend to move to this legislation this week.”
There had been speculation Trump might declare the situation on the southern border a national emergency, giving him a face-saving way to end the government shutdown that could prove both politically and economically costly, while maintaining the backing of his core supporters.
Later, several top administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, spoke with a small group of reporters at the White House.
Mulvaney cautioned that while declaring a national emergency “is still a tool that is available to the president,” it is not the preferred route.
The president faces pressure from his conservative base not to compromise on immigration issues. Some influential commentators, who are hard-liners on border security, have warned Trump that trading amnesty for wall funding could cost him re-election in 2020 because he would lose support.
Pence denied the criticisms, saying, “This is not an amnesty bill.” He said the proposal was for a three-year reprieve for DACA recipients and would not grant citizenship or permanent residency to any of the immigrants affected.
Trump has repeatedly insisted he needs $5.7 billion in taxpayer funding to extend a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
The Democrats, who control the House but not the Senate, have offered more than $1 billion in new money for border security, but none specifically for a wall. Democratic sources say the money will be included in a packet of spending bills the House will consider next week — $524 million to improve ports of entry and $563 million to hire more immigration judges.
The impasse over the wall and the record-long government shutdown also led to a dispute between Trump and Pelosi over her plans to travel to Afghanistan.
Pelosi accused the White House on Friday of leaking information about her planned trip to fly commercially to Afghanistan after Trump denied Pelosi the use of a military plane for the trip.
Pelosi said it was “very irresponsible on the part of the president” to release details about her sensitive travel plans, which the State Department said significantly increased the security threat on the ground.
The White House denied leaking Pelosi’s flight plans.
Trump on Thursday had revoked the use of a military plane for Pelosi and Democratic members of Congress for their planned trip to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops and to Brussels to take with NATO leaders. In a letter to the speaker, the president said that “in light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay [as a result of the shutdown], I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”
A spokesperson for Pelosi’s office said the trip would have provided “critical national security and intelligence briefings” as well as served as an opportunity for Pelosi to thank the troops.
The president’s letter did not directly address Pelosi’s call Wednesday for Trump to delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address until government funding was restored and the shutdown ended. (VOA)