Trump’s hardline demands temper hopes of immigration deal

White House says package tackling fate of young immigrants needs to include border wall

The US president Donald Trump: his anti-immigration wishlist dashes hopes for Dreamers. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The prospects for a bipartisan deal to protect 800,000 immigrants brought to the US illegally as children are facing new doubts as Donald Trump pushes a hardline list of immigration and border security demands to Congress as a condition for his backing.

The president shattered an uneasy truce with senior Democrats over immigration on Sunday night after the White House said any package tackling the fate of younger immigrants called Dreamers needed to include construction of a wall along America's southern border, a crackdown on undocumented minors from Latin America, and tougher asylum rules.

Sunday’s demands triggered a backlash from Democrats and raised renewed questions over the odds of Congress coalescing around bipartisan legislation tackling the Dreamers issue within the slender timeframe available for a deal.

"The odds of a permanent status for Daca recipients were already low and they just got lower," said Madeline S Zavodny, a professor of economics at the University of North Florida and adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.


In a joint statement, top Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said: "The administration can't be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans."

They added: “We told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the Dream Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.”

Deportation threat

Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers face deportation after Mr Trump rescinded an Obama-era programme that allowed them to stay in the US. Last month Mr Trump enraged parts of his conservative base by dropping a demand for funding his signature border wall in order to secure a tentative deal with Democrats to protect individuals brought to the US illegally as children.

On Sunday Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer said the president's demand for a wall along the US border with Mexico had been "explicitly ruled out" of their earlier negotiations. "If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good-faith effort to do so."

Mr Trump's decision to abolish the Dreamers programme has become one in a series of flashpoints between the White House and US business leaders, with a large group of technology-led chief executives – including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cook – publicly denouncing the decision as "cruel" to otherwise law-abiding immigrants.

Anti-immigration measures

The president had initially signalled he was prepared to work with Democratic leaders to pass legislation to reinstate the programme, created by executive order under Barack Obama.

But in a letter to Congress released by the White House on Sunday night, Mr Trump said he would require a series of anti-immigration measures to sign a law that would recreate the Daca system. “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end,” the letter read.

Senior administration officials declined to go as far as to threaten to veto any Daca legislation that did not contain the full immigration wishlist, meaning it is uncertain how the White House will respond if Congress strikes a deal on a more narrowly framed bill. The president’s wishlist contains measures that are non-starters among many Democrats as well as some moderate Republicans.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017