Trump Ups Immigration Demands, Outlines List of Stricter Proposals

Plan escalates tensions with Democrats, California over 'dreamers,' sanctuary status

Donald Trump
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October 9, 2017

The Trump administration outlined a detailed list of immigration principles and priorities law late Sunday that could upend a previous deal with Democrats to allow hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

The top immigration agenda items include funding a southern border wall and new limits on legal immigration to allow for only spouses and minor children to apply for permanent legal residency.

The immigration overhaul would provide the safe and swifter return of unaccompanied minors who seek admission to the United States at the southern border and require employers to use E-verify, a system that verifies workers are allowed to legally work in the United States.

Additionally, President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass a new law that would cut off federal grants to sanctuary cities and states, a move that would overturn a court injunction and settle the legal battle in his favor.

The Trump administration said it laid out the new set of immigration priorities to "ensure safe and lawful admissions; defend the safety and security of our country; and protect American workers and taxpayers."

Trump said in a letter to Congress he developed the new priorities after a "bottom-review" of immigration policies by federal law enforcement agencies.

He said the findings must be included as part of any legislation addressing the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, those immigrants who arrived in the United States as children of illegal immigrants and have met certain legal standards President Obama set to allow them to remain.

"Without these reforms, illegal immigration and child migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end," Trump wrote. "Immigration must create more jobs, higher wages, and greater security for Americans—now and for future generations."

The demand for more funding for construction of the border wall, among other Trump immigration priorities, surprised Democrats. Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) previously said they struck a deal with Trump to protect younger immigrants, known as "dreamers," from deportation that did not involve more border wall funding.

Trump has signaled in recent weeks that the money for a border wall would not need to be a part of any DACA deal, noting that it could be included in separate, later legislation.

"The administration can't be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans," Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement Sunday night. "We told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures … but this list goes far beyond what is reasonable."

"This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise," they said.

Last month Trump announced plans to end the Obama-era DACA program, which allows dreamers to remain in the United States legally and granted them two-year work permits. The program, which protects roughly 690,000 immigrants, has faced several successful legal challenges across the country.

Administration officials said the proposals are necessary to protect U.S. citizens' safety and jobs for American-born workers after years of congressional inaction on the issue.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he hoped the new policies would continue to reduce the number of immigrants illegally trying to enter the country from the Mexican border; there has been a sharp decrease since Trump took office.

"These are reasonable proposals that will build on the early success of President Trump's leadership. This plan will work," he said in a statement Sunday night. "If followed, it will produce an immigration system with integrity and one in which we can take pride."

The proposals aim to reduce the flood of immigrant women and children arriving at the Southern border from Central America that have inundated local communities in Texas in recent years. Many of these immigrants are fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty, and current law is more lenient when it comes to immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras than those from Mexico and Canada.

The Trump administration, however, is proposing to jettison the protections in order to treat all immigrants the same—a change that would allow U.S. authorities to deport the minors and those accompanying them more quickly.

When it comes to sanctuary cities, the Trump administration wants federal immigration agents to be able to communicate with local sheriffs to find out when they have arrested and are holding undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Several sanctuary cities across the country do not allow local law enforcement officers to talk to federal immigration agencies or do not honor federal requests to detain these individuals until federal agents can secure them and begin efforts to deport them.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D.) signed a law late last week that would give the entire state sanctuary status.

The administration is asking Congress to clarify the law to provide state and local law enforcement the latitude to honor detainers issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It also wants a legislative fix to allow the Justice Department to withhold federal grants to sanctuary cities and states.

A federal judge in Chicago blocked Sessions' attempt to withhold funding from these cities and states in September. The Justice Department is appealing that ruling.

The California Sheriff's Association has opposed the sanctuary state law, arguing that it would tie their hands and wrongly protects repeat drunk-drivers and MS-13 gang members.

The association has called on the GOP-controlled Congress for legislation that would void some aspects of the sanctuary state law.

ICE Acting Director Tom Homan said it is important that any changes to U.S. immigration law include a "crackdown" on sanctuary cities.

"Sanctuary policies are shielding criminal aliens from enforcement by refusing to honor ICE detainers or allow ICE access to interview aliens in jails, and they are attracting more people to come here illegally at the expense of public safety," he told reporters on a conference call Sunday night.

He cited two examples that resulted in an illegal immigrant committing a violent crime.

A man was arrested for a felony domestic battery in Sonoma, Calif., triggered an ICE alert because the man was previously deported to Guatemala in 2008. ICE filed a detainer, but the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department released the man on bail before ICE could respond to a notification that gave them less than an hour to arrive there. Two weeks later, the man turned himself in for murdering his girlfriend

A county jail in Denver, Colo., released a known gang member with an extensive criminal record when ICE couldn't respond to a "last-minute" notification, he said. Seven weeks later he was arrested and charged with murdering a 32-year-old man at a rail station.

"There's absolutely no justification for releasing a public safety threat back into the public when they are in the U.S. in violation of federal law, have committed yet another crime against our citizens, and have the potential to reoffend," Homan said.