White House Offers to Legalize 'Dreamers' for Border Security, Tighter Immigration Standards

US-Mexican border fence at Playas de Tijuana
US-Mexican border fence at Playas de Tijuana / Getty Images
January 25, 2018

The White House on Thursday laid out an immigration reform plan that offers a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants and allocates $25 billion to overhaul border security.

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller explained the framework on a call with Republican congressional staff Thursday and argued that it constitutes a viable compromise, Politico reports. The plan calls for ending the diversity visa lottery and curbing chain migration—two of President Donald Trump's key demands—and also allows recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to gain citizenship, along with about a million others who would have qualified for DACA.

The one-page framework is a "compromise position that we believe…will get 60 votes in the Senate," Miller said. He added that it is "a framework that ultimately will lead to passage of a law."

The White House requested additional money to hire U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, in addition to immigration judges, attorneys, and prosecutors. The proposal would also address "legal loopholes," Miller said, that "make it almost impossible to deport those immigrants who show up illegally."

The framework cracks down on chain migration by only allowing potential immigrants to be sponsored by a parent or spouse.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) said the deal shows Trump is willing to compromise.

"The president's framework is generous and humane, while also being responsible. It protects those eligible for DACA, who are here through no fault of their own," Cotton said. "But it also will prevent us from ending up back here in five years by securing the border and putting an end to extended-family chain migration. The president's willingness to grandfather everyone in the current immigrant backlog also shows he's serious about reaching a bipartisan solution."

Trump told reporters Wednesday he supports a path to citizenship "over a period of 10 to 12 years." According to this framework, that would apply to the estimated 1.8 million illegal immigrants brought here as children, known as Dreamers, about 800,000 of whom obtained temporary protection DACA, which was an Obama-era executive order that Trump rescinded.

"The president has indicated a willingness to extend citizenship to 1.8 million individuals as part of this immigration reform package," Miller said. "That would be the DACA population, plus individuals who failed to apply for DACA but otherwise met the requirements, as well as adjustments in a timeframe that would bring the total maximum population size to 1.8 million."

Miller also called it the most "the most substantial concession" for Democrats.

Some Democrats, however, were quick to criticize the White House's plan.

"$25 billion as ransom for Dreamers with cuts to legal immigration and increases to deportations doesn’t pass the laugh test," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) said.

Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice, expressed confidence that Democrats will oppose this framework.

"We will oppose it. Most if not all Democrats will oppose it. Some Republicans will, too," Sharry said. "We are not going to allow Stephen Miller to exploit a crisis that he and his boss created to take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty and enact his nativist wish list."