WASHINGTON The White House is expected to ask Congress to approve a Republican wish list of immigration policies as part of a deal to protect hundreds of thousands of young people brought into the country illegally as children, known as Dreamers, according to a preliminary document obtained by McClatchy.
Talking points written by the president’s Domestic Policy Council and given to some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill include a dozen proposals grouped into three broad areas — border security, interior enforcement and merit-based immigration.
The proposals run afoul of the tentative agreement Trump discussed with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a Sept. 13 dinner at the White House, according to a Democratic staffer on the Hill who asked for anonymity to discuss a preliminary proposal.
“In fact, there is bipartisan opposition to many of them,” the Democratic staffer said.
The plan was designed by Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser who is responsible for some of his most contentious policies, including writing a ban on travel to the United States from some Muslim-majority countries, and does not reflect the views of Trump or many of his other top aides, according to a multiple people familiar with situation.
“The president himself said he doesn’t want to ‘throw out good, educated and accomplished young people’ and wants a Dream Act paired with increased border security, but Stephen Miller's agenda to try to attach 50 percent cuts to legal immigration and other provisions completely undermines the president's desire and chances for any deal,” said a political operative who works closely with congressional Republicans.
The White House document includes several proposals already introduced in standalone bills — eliminating protections for unaccompanied children who are in the country illegally; restricting eligibility for asylum, humanitarian parole and abused or abandoned foreign children; raising fees for visas; reducing legal immigration by placing people with certain skills at the front of the line; hiring thousands more immigration officers, prosecutors and judges; and implementing E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status. In some cases, the talking points cited the specific bill numbers.
The document was written after a months-long internal battle at the White House in which some of Trump’s top aides have been pushing him to protect Dreamers and use the issue as a bargaining chip for a larger immigration deal.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday that the administration plans to release a list of immigration proposals in “the coming days.”
“We will be putting out specific principles that the White House supports and would like to see done legislatively,” she said.
On Monday, House Democrats began trying to force a floor vote on a bill to protect Dreamers without prior approval of Republican leaders.
Republicans will need the support of some Democrats to pass a bill that protects the nearly 800,000 people enrolled in a Obama-era program that allows those brought into the country illegally as children to receive temporary, renewable work permits.
The administration announced in early September it will shut down the program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA — after a six-month delay to give Congress time to pass a legislative fix.
Trump, Pelosi and Schumer formed the outline of an agreement to the annoyance of many Republicans on Capitol Hill who were shut out of the discussion. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were not invited to dinner.
Schumer and Pelosi immediately announced in a joint statement that they struck a preliminary agreement with Trump, but no final deal.
“We agreed that the president would support enshrining DACA protections into law, and encourage the House and Senate to act,” they said. “What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible.”
Even with just two pieces of the deal, many questions remain unanswered: Will the bill relate to just the 800,000 DACA recipients or the estimated 2 to 3 million Dreamers? Would people be given work permits or green cards with a path to citizenship? How much money will be spent on border enforcement? What kind of security would be provided?
The Democrats said they would work out a border security package that include drones, air support, sensor equipment and road rebuilding, but not a wall.
Trump, who pledged to build a wall on the southern border during a campaign largely built around immigration, initially insisted they made no deal but later acknowledged that one was made and that the “wall will come later.”
A House Democratic leadership aide said Tuesday that the talking points document will not go anywhere. “This draft is a complete nonstarter,” the aide said. “Not a serious proposal. Does not reflect the Pelosi/Schumer agreement with the President whatsoever.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina who chairs the Freedom caucus, said Tuesday he had not seen the document.
But the proposal closely mirrors what several groups have been pushing the administration to do for months.
Robert Law, government relations director for Federation for American Immigration Reform, said his group sent the White House recommendations last week that included e-verify, border enforcement, biometric entry-exit screening system and interior enforcement.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies who has been pushing similar proposals for years, said any deal must include other provisions beyond border security. “Anything short of that would suggest a lack of success,” he said.
Lesley Clark and William Douglas contributed.