Both sides blast Trump immigration plan – as racist or as a giveaway

Protesters hold signs against the repeal of DACA at a Phoenix rally Sept. 5, the day President Donald Trump said he would end the program. Now the White House wants to expand the deferred deportation program in exchange for a border wall and tougher enforcement policies – drawing criticism from both sides of the issue. (Photo by Tynin Fries/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – A White House plan to give a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants in exchange for a border wall and tougher immigration policies was attacked from all sides Friday, called racist by one side and a shameless giveaway by the other.

The one-page “Framework on Immigration Reform and Border Security” released late Thursday would double the number of immigrants eligible for deferred deportation, to about 1.8 million people nationally and 50,000 in Arizona, according to Migration Policy Institute estimates. It would also create a 10- to 12-year pathway to citizenship for those people.

But the plan also calls for $25 billion for a border wall, more money for immigration officers and prosecutors, an end to the visa lottery system and a sharp reduction in the family migration system – derided by critics as “chain migration” – to limit its use to minor children and spouses.

Even though it could eventually provide citizenship – which has been a deal-breaker for many conservatives – to twice as many people as those now covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, immigration advocates were outraged by most of the elements in the plan. And some were not even sure they could trust the proposed DACA numbers put forward by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Advocates derided the enforcement portions of the plan as “white supremacist ransom note” and a “nativist wish list” from elements within the Trump White House.

“There is no green card shiny enough to justify the consequences” of the framework, said Jonathan Jayes-Green, a DACA recipient and co-founder of the UndocuBlack Network, during a conference call by advocates Friday.

On the other side, the Federation for American Immigration Reform called the plan a bust, criticizing what it said would be a “massive amnesty plan.”

“The White House immigration framework offers Americans too little while granting illegal aliens too much to be considered a principled, credible approach to curtailing illegal immigration,” said a statement from the organization, which pushes for tougher immigration enforcement.

The FAIR statement said the framework “audaciously grants amnesty to 1.8 million illegal aliens – 1.1 million more than anyone interested in addressing the status of DACA recipients ever imagined.”

“By any definition, these numbers expose this framework as a massive amnesty vehicle, not a reasonable DACA compromise,” FAIR said.

A lack of compromise over immigration led to the partial shutdown of the federal government last weekend, when Senate Democrats refused to approve a federal budget extension until they got a promise to get a vote on a fix for DACA, which expires March 5.

-Cronkite News graphic by Philip Athey

There were at least a dozen House and Senate plans in the works before the White House announced its framework this week. While it is short on details, there were enough to get both sides worked up.

“Once again, President Trump and his nativist staff are proposing legislative solutions that are an attack on immigrants and American values,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, in a statement Friday. “Trump, his anti-immigrant staff, and complicit congressional Republicans have taken the Dreamers hostage, and now
expect us to pay a shameful ransom,”

Trump announced on Sept. 5 that he would end DACA, the Obama-era program that protects illegal immigrants if they were brought to this country as children. But where that 2012 program covered about 800,000 people, the Trump plan unveiled this week would increase the eligible population to 1.8 million people.

Where Obama’s plan gave the so-called Dreamers a renewable two-year protection from deportation, along with permits to work and go to school, the Trump plan calls for a decade-long path to citizenship. But the framework adds that a DACA recipient’s “status is subject to revocation for criminal conduct or public safety and national security concerns, public charge, fraud, etc.”

Most of the single-page framework focuses on increased funding for border security and the closing of “legal loopholes” to expedite deportation of illegal immigrants.

Listed among the “minimum tools necessary to mitigate the rapidly growing surge of illegal immigration” were a $25 billion trust fund to build the border wall and improve facilities at ports of entries, and a request for funding to hire and retain “DHS personnel, ICE attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals.”

The plan also restricts family migration by limiting family sponsorship to spouses and minor children for both citizens and legal permanent residents, and calls for elimination of the visa lottery program, which it said is “riddled with fraud and abuse,” in favor of a visa system targeted at skilled workers.

Advocates defended those two programs Friday, saying they have been the best way for poor, unskilled immigrants to legally enter the U.S. from countries that the president reportedly derided with a vulgar name in a meeting with lawmakers.

Jayes-Green called the attempt to curtail those programs “a disgusting attempt to whiten the complexion of this country.”

Advocates balked even at the parts of the plan that would benefit them.

“I don’t think it’s going to encompass the 1.8 million,” said Madhuri Grewal, federal immigration policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. She fears that what she called “coded language” of the framework could open the door to the Department of Homeland Security “arbitrarily revoking” immgrants’ status.

Advocates said Trump created this immigration crisis with his decision to end DACA and accused him of trying to exploit it to get the tougher immigration policies he campaigned on.

“We are talking about immigration right now because the president created the emergency,” Grewal said, accusing the administration of trying to swap DACA protections for an increasing number of items from “their nativist wish list.”

Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and public advocacy director of United We Dream, said in Friday’s conference call that she would not let herself “be a bargaining chip used to lock another person up.”