President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday defended their offer to extend protections for the so-called Dreamers in exchange for Democrats’ support for $5.7 billion for a southern border wall.
Conservative radio host Ann Coulter and other immigration hard-liners slammed the Saturday proposal as “amnesty” for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children as well as for refugees from several countries.
“We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” Coulter tweeted on Saturday, referring to former Florida governor and 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
Both Trump and Pence sought to reassure their supporters that their offer to Democrats, who have already rejected the proposal, did not amount to amnesty.
“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer,“ Trump tweeted Sunday. “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.”
Pence, too, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that the president’s proposal “is not amnesty ― there’s no pathway to citizenship, there’s no permanent status here at all.”
Trump is offering a three-year extension for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids from deportation. The offer would also give a three-year extension to 300,000 people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan who are living in the U.S. under the temporary protected status program.
But Democrats say that’s not good enough. They want Trump to reopen the government before negotiations proceed, and note that it is the president himself who tried to take away those protections in the first place.
“Offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he will take up legislation next week incorporating the president’s proposal. The bill will reportedly also include increased funding for disaster relief and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in December, as a means to win over some Democratic support.
McConnell’s announcement that he would take up a bill with little chance of passage is a reversal of sorts, however, given that he repeatedly stated he would only allow measures to come to the floor with support from both Democratic leaders and Trump.
“The last thing we need to do right now is trade pointless — absolutely pointless — show votes back and forth across the aisle,” McConnell said earlier this month after blocking votes on several House-passed measures that would have reopened the government with no funding for Trump’s wall.
Democrats speculated McConnell had another reason for deciding to intervene amid the monthlong stalemate between Trump and congressional Democrats: moving public opinion, which has pinned the blame for the shutdown squarely on Republicans.
“It was, I think, an effort to prop up the president’s sagging poll numbers. But it did nothing to get us closer to ending the shutdown,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday about the offer on CBS’s “Face the Nation.“