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White House Outlines What Trump Needs In Immigration Deal

Jan 25, 2018
Originally published on January 26, 2018 9:45 am

The Trump administration says it is willing to offer a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people who are in the country illegally, if lawmakers will spend $25 billion on a border wall and make changes to the legal immigration system.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The White House is officially outlining what President Trump needs to have in an immigration deal to win his support. White House adviser Stephen Miller held a conference call with Republican congressional staffers to brief them on a legislative framework the White House plans to send up to Capitol Hill on Monday. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis obtained the White House memo outlining their immigration policies, and she joins us now. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What's in this framework?

DAVIS: So there is four main parameters to what the White House is asking for. The two major ones are the - first, they are saying that they would like to provide a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people. This includes the about 800,000 people currently in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but it would also include all the people that didn't apply but would also qualify. You often hear these people referred to as DREAMers. These are people that were brought here as children and now reside in this kind of legal limbo that Congress is trying to figure out.

On top of that, they're asking for $25 billion for the border wall system. They use the word system, which is also not just the physical structure but the other things you could use to secure the border. They'd like more money for agents along the border, other ways to secure the border and then tougher restrictions on family-based immigration policies - who you can bring in as members of your family - they want it only to apply to spouses and young children, to minors - and eliminate something called the visa lottery program and would use those annual 50,000 slots to apply to those family members or to - what they're calling high-skilled workers.

SHAPIRO: This only just happened today, but what are you hearing from people on Capitol Hill about how this proposal is going to be received?

DAVIS: This is really consistent with the four pillars that have already been outlined. So there's not much new here. A lot of this effort is a little bit about branding. A lot of what was in here, what - was already presented to the president by a bipartisan group of negotiators in the Senate that the White House initially rejected.

A lot of Republicans are saying, look; we need this to be the Donald Trump immigration proposal, not the bipartisan immigration proposal. In order to get Republicans onboard for it, the president needs to take the lead. Speaker Paul Ryan put out a statement welcoming in this and saying that they really would appreciate the president sort of carving the path here.

SHAPIRO: Does the president carving the path here mean the president giving the House and Senate leadership cover to bring a proposal to the floor that might not even get a majority of Republican votes? There are certainly a lot of people we've heard from - lawmakers who are going to say, if this includes citizenship for DREAMers, I'm not on board.

DAVIS: That's going to be a huge problem. And this is why from the beginning it has to be bipartisan because Republicans have always said they're going to need Democratic votes in the House and Senate to get this passed. The question is, what is the Democratic reception to this going to be? The citizenship component is obviously hugely supported among Democrats. They have already conceded they're willing to give up some money for the wall 'cause they know that this is the give and take.

The really tough point to negotiate in here is going to be these family-based policies Democrats would also like to apply to parents, to grandparents. That's a really big issue for the immigration activist community. And also, the visa lottery program has just become a bit controversial because of remarks the president has made about the program and this debate over the merit of who gets to come in and who gets to call themselves an American.

SHAPIRO: The White House plans to officially send this framework up on Monday. There's of course another deadline (laughter) for a government shutdown just after that.

DAVIS: Always one right around the corner.

SHAPIRO: Is Congress going to pass something like this?

DAVIS: The two dates we're looking at are February 8. That's when the Congress has to pass another stopgap measure to keep the government open. Democrats have shown they're willing to shut down the government over immigration. The question is, will they do it again? That does seem unlikely. The deadline that the White House has said is March 5. That's when they call the end of the program, so that's the operating deadline for Republicans.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.