In a speech at the White House Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump offered Democrats relief for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and an extension of the Temporary Protected Status program in exchange for $5.7 billion for a “wall” on the southern border.
Trump said Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be willing to call the legislation to the floor this week in order to reopen the federal government, which has been shut down for nearly a month.
But Democratic leaders, who were not involved in talks with Trump over the president’s latest proposal, likely won’t budge until the government is reopened.
Speaking about his “wall,” a campaign promise that Trump repeatedly has said Mexico would pay for, the president seemed to briefly stumble over his words while reading dry-mouthed from a teleprompter.
The Republican proposal seeks $5.7 billion for a “strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall,” Trump said.
Trump cited his usual litany of fear-mongering tactics including drug trafficking, gangs, and crime to justify the new White House proposal. At one point, Trump said the mothers of migrant women were giving them birth control before their journey north because they “may be raped or sexually accosted or assaulted.”
“There is a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border that requires urgent action,” Trump also said.
The proposal called for $800 million for “urgent humanitarian assistance,” $805 million for drug detection technology to secure ports of entry, 2,750 new border agents, and 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce case backlogs.
Minors from Central American countries seeking asylum would have to do so from their home countries, he said.
Trump again moved the goal posts on his idea for a border wall. Instead of a “big, beautiful concrete wall,” the president said it would instead be a “see-through steel barrier” along only 230 miles of border areas this year. Trump acknowledged that the southern U.S. border already has miles and miles of natural barriers.
As to DACA relief, Trump offered access to work permits, social security numbers, and protection from deportation. On TPS, he proposed a three-year extension for some 300,000 immigrants whose status is set to expire.
Earlier on Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that Democratic leaders viewed Trump’s new overture as a “non-starter.”
“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, initial reports make clear that 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,” Pelosi said in a statement reported by The Hill and other news outlets.
“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter,” she added.
Democratic lawmakers already have introduced legislation nine times to reopen the federal government. To date, McConnell has refused to call any of the proposals to a vote.
Democrats also demanded a “permanent solution” for DACA and TPS recipients.
“You can’t negotiate by keeping the government hostage,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren told CNN following Trump’s speech. “This is just negotiations by TV spotlights.” The Democratic lawmaker from California noted that DACA recipients already have temporary relief, thanks to the courts.
Ann Coulter, who along with Rush Limbaugh reportedly was mostly responsible for convincing Trump to embark on a government shutdown 29 days ago over the border wall, criticized Trump’s proposal on Saturday.
“100 miles of border wall in exchange for amnestying millions of illegals. So if we grant citizenship to a BILLION foreigners, maybe we can finally get a full border wall,” she tweeted.
Update, Saturday, 6:20 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has responded to Trump’s speech by promising to move the proposal forward. According to NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett, McConnell said, “Everyone has made their point—now it’s time to make a law. I intend to move to this legislation this week. With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well.”