President Donald Trump put forth a new proposal in an effort to end a government shutdown that entered its fifth week yesterday.
At the heart of the stalemate is the President’s demand for funding for a wall along the southern border, which he says will impede migrants’ crossing into the U.S. illegally. Democrats have blocked any spending bills that include any funding for a wall, which they call expensive, ineffective and immoral.
The President says such a structure would go a long way toward decreasing a humanitarian crisis on the southern border and that has seen drug cartels and human traffickers operate with impunity.
“There is a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border that requires urgent action. Thousands of children are being exploited by ruthless coyotes and vicious cartels and gangs. One in three women is sexually assaulted on the dangerous journey north,” the President said from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in an address broadcast to the nation yesterday afternoon.
“Vast quantities of lethal narcotics are flooding through our border and into our communities…The lack of border control provides a gateway…for criminals and gang members to enter the United States…” he added.
The President’s plan calls for $800 million in humanitarian assistance for illegal immigrants and those seeking asylum, $805 million for illegal drug detection technology to be deployed at ports of entry and an additional 2,750 border agents.
The plan also calls for seventy-five new immigration judge teams aimed at reducing the country’s 900,000-immigration-case backlog. And it calls for $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall which, the President says, will be installed strategically in areas deemed necessary by officials.
“This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea. These are steel barriers in high-priority locations,” the President said. “We already have many miles of barrier, including 115 miles that we are currently building or under contract…Our request will add another 230 miles this year in the areas our border agents most urgently need.”
As an incentive for Democrats, the President offered two proposals Democrats have long sought. The first is protection from deportation for 700,000 DACA recipients, individuals who were brought to the country illegally by their parents, but when they were very young and through no fault of their own.
The second is a three-year extension of the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program. TPS is granted to citizens from countries that have been affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other devastation. Countries are granted the designation and the Secretary of Homeland Security can renew it for six, 12 or 18 months.
Critics of the program argue that TPS was always meant to be temporary but the program has turned into a permanent benefit program for hundreds of thousands of people.
The Trump administration ended the program when it declined over recent years to renew TPS status for citizens from countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti. Some of those citizens had been in the U.S. since 1999.
Mr. Trump said the three year extensions of TPS, as well as the DACA program, will give Congress time to come up with a broader, more comprehensive immigration package. “…Congress can [now] work on a larger immigration deal, which everybody wants — Republicans and Democrats,” the President said.
Democrats dismissed the proposals as an unserious offer.
“Democrats were hopeful that the President was finally willing to re-open government and proceed with a much-needed discussion to protect the border. Unfortunately…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,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“What is original in the President’s proposal is not good. What is good in the proposal is not original,” Pelosi added in a subsequent tweet.
“It’s clear the President realizes that by closing the government and hurting so many American workers and their families, he has put himself and the country in an untenable position. Unfortunately, he keeps putting forward one-sided and ineffective remedies,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“It was the President who singled-handedly [sic] took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place – offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring Mr. Trump’s proposal to a vote in the Senate this week. It was unclear whether there are enough votes for the proposal to pass there. The proposal would almost certainly fail in the House of Representatives where Democrats now hold the majority.
Photo by The White House