United States President Donald Trump on Saturday offered temporary protection from deportation for over a million immigrants in a bid to end the government shutdown, AFP reported. In exchange, he urged the Congress to authorise funding for his Mexican border wall. The proposal, however, was swiftly rejected by the Democrats.
The federal government shutdown entered its 29th day, the longest in US history, as Trump made the announcement in a White House address. His proposal aimed at protecting two categories of immigrants – the “Dreamers” or the undocumented children of those who settled illegally in the US, and those whose protected status is set to soon expire.
These concessions would “build the trust and goodwill necessary to begin real immigration reform,” said Trump, who demanded $5.7 billion in return to build the wall on the southern border with Mexico. He also called for $800 million in “urgent humanitarian assistance” and $805 million for drug detection technology to help secure the country’s ports of entry.
“I’m here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border,” said Trump, adding that he was offering a “common sense compromise both parties should embrace”.
Democrats rejected Trump’s offer as soon as it was leaked in the press prior to his address, with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi describing it as “a non-starter”. “His proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives,” she said.
Democrats said that talks on border security would take place only after the government shutdown ends, Reuters reported. “It was the president who single-handedly took away DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and [Temporary Protected Status] protections in the first place,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. “Offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking.”
Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, young undocumented immigrants called “Dreamers” are protected from deportation. It gives work permits, but no path to citizenship, to over 7,00,000 immigrants. Temporary Protected Status, meanwhile, is given to nationals from specific countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster, or other strife. TPS holders are permitted to work and live in the US for a limited period.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Trump’s proposal as a “bold solution to reopen the government, secure the border, and take bipartisan steps toward addressing current immigration issues”.