White House plans to seek immigration cuts for DACA fix

White House plans to seek immigration cuts for DACA fix

The White House is close to sending a proposal to Congress that would demand strict immigration measures in exchange for helping people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The plan, which was drafted by senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, would cut legal immigration in half over the next decade and dramatically ramp up punishments for immigrants living illegally in the U.S., according to a source familiar with the proposal.

It’s all but certain the plan would run into a wall of opposition on Capitol Hill. Democrats have roundly rejected similar legislative proposals, and slashing legal immigration levels is likely to divide Republicans.

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A stalemate over the plan could endanger Trump’s pursuit of a deal to benefit hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who benefit from DACA, the Obama-era initiative that allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors to seek deportation relief and work permits.

Such an agreement appeared to be within reach last month, when Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hammered out the framework of a proposal during a dinner with Trump.

If the White House sticks with its wish list, it would be a win for Miller, who has worked to solidify his influence in the West Wing. The 32-year-old aide has long been a staunch opponent of DACA and was reportedly upset when Trump decided to pursue a deal with the Democratic leaders.

Politico first reported the details of the White House plan. The proposal could be submitted to Congress as soon as this weekend, the report said. The plan could reportedly change before it is sent to Capitol Hill.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the immigration principles will be released "in the very short future.” She declined to comment on the contents of the proposal.

When Trump rescinded DACA last month, he gave Congress six months to protect the program's recipients, kicking debate over their future into overdrive.

The White House-endorsed RAISE Act forms the backbone of the wish list, according to the source. The measure, written by Sens. Tom CottonTom CottonHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), would cut legal immigration levels in half over the next 10 years while transforming the visa system from a family-based one into a merit-based one.

Both senators attended a Monday night dinner with Trump meant to hash out a DACA fix. Cotton met with the president in the Oval Office Thursday morning.

Democrats and many Republicans panned the principles behind the RAISE Act, arguing that such steep cuts in legal immigration would harm the economy. Democrats also object to eliminating family-based visa preferences.

The plan also contains elements of a sweeping enforcement bill, commonly known as the Davis-Oliver Act, that would criminalize people in the U.S. without legal status. Being illegally present in the U.S. is currently a civil offense. It would also give state and local government's broad authority to enforce immigration laws.

A similar measure, called the SAFE Act, was widely panned by members of both parties when it was first introduced in 2013.

Progressive Democrats are fighting to pass a "clean" DACA replacement — one without concessions on border security or legal immigration — but Democratic leadership has all but admitted some concessions would have to be made.

Still, neither the Democratic nor Republican proponents of a DACA defense have publicly discussed concessions like the ones in Miller's plan.

Doug Rivlin, a spokesman for Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis GutierrezDem senator slams Trump's Puerto Rico remark: 'What's out of whack' is your response Gutiérrez rips Trump's comments in Puerto Rico: 'I wish he would stop talking about money' Ex-Puerto Rican official: San Juan mayor just wants to run for governor MORE (D-Ill.), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Immigration, said cutting legal immigration is not something Democrats will consider.

“For Rep. Gutiérrez and most Democrats, cutting legal immigration is a non-starter because cutting legal immigration is the only proven way to increase illegal immigration, which is what we are trying to prevent." 

"There is majority support for the DREAM Act today in the House, majority support among American voters, so Rep. Gutiérrez and others are saying why not just let the Congress vote on a clean DREAM Act?” Rivlin said.

The debate has so far centered around what border security measures should accompany relief for DACA recipients, but Democrats have listed wall funding, interior enforcement and increased detention center funding as non-starters.

Miller’s plan would also include billions of dollars to fund new border security measures, immigration detention beds and immigration judges.

- This story was updated at 2:32 p.m.