Democrats and outside progressive groups are quickly panning an immigration framework from President Trump as a non-starter on Capitol Hill.
The White House’s proposal would provide
a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million “Dreamers” in exchange for $25 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall and other security measures, as well as make sweeping changes to the legal immigration system.
But progressive Democrats and their allies are ripping the suggested framework, arguing the administration is trying to hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients “hostage” for changes to legal immigration.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) called the proposal a “ransom” that “doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
“It would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America. Both a wall and the statue would be equally offensive and equally ineffective and both would express Trump’s deeply held suspicion of Latinos,” he said in a series of tweets on Thursday.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, added that the White House proposal is “shameful” and using the DACA program as a “bargaining chip.”
“President Trump is not just trying to shake down Congressional Democrats; he is trying to shake down the American people,” she said.
The Trump administration announced last year that it was ending DACA, an Obama-era program that allows certain immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school here.
Congress is now racing to jump-start negotiations ahead of a March 5 deadline. Without legislative action, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are at risk of being deported.
House Democrats, who are in the minority, don’t have the ability to block legislation on their own. But in the Senate, Republicans will need the help of at least nine Democrats — not to mention the herculean task of keeping their own caucus together.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said the proposal puts a “hard-line immigration agenda … on the backs of these young people.”
“Dreamers should not be held hostage to President Trump’s crusade to tear families apart and waste billions of American tax dollars on an ineffective wall,” he said.
Several progressive Democratic senators were also quick to shoot down the White House plan on Thursday as unworkable as a starting point for an agreement.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called
it a “compromise between the far right and the alt-right” that is “dead on arrival.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), considered a potential 2020 White House contender, said Trump is trying to hold immigrants “hostage to Steven [sic] Miller’s anti-immigrant wish list.”
Stephen Miller, a conservative White House aide known for his hard-line immigration views, has been at the center of the debate. He’s drawn the frustration of Democrats, as well as some Republicans, who view him as a stumbling block to any bipartisan deal.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several red- and purple-state senators up for reelection this year in states won by Trump have yet to weigh in on the White House’s proposal.
The framework comes as a bipartisan group, led by GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), have begun meeting to pitch ideas for a Senate bill being drafted by Durbin and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised to bring an immigration bill up for debate after Feb. 8 if senators aren’t able to reach a compromise, and assuming Democrats don’t shut down the government.
Several GOP senators — including Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) — who have been in close discussions with Trump on immigration quickly backed the framework.
But Trump also received backlash from GOP outside groups.
Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America, said the bill would increase “amnesty” and “should be a non-starter.” Breitbart News, a conservative website overseen until recently by Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, called it an “amnesty bonanza.”
Outside liberal and progressive groups also panned the framework.
Credo Action called it a “white supremacist’s wish list,” while MoveOn.org said it was a “bill of cruelty.”
“His proposal today isn’t a bill of love; it’s a bill of cruelty that is no basis for a deal and should be dead on arrival in Congress,” said Anna Galland, MoveOn.org’s civic action executive director.