Trump Pitches 3-Year Extension Of DACA Protections For Border Wall Funding
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And as we've been reporting, President Trump made an offer this afternoon to end the partial government shutdown. His plan would include, among other things, temporary protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or the DREAMers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. In exchange, he wants $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we are successful in this effort, we will then have the best chance in a very long time at real bipartisan immigration reform.
BLOCK: It's his latest proposal to get Democrats in Congress to agree to a Homeland Security funding bill that would pay for that border wall. To sort through the details of this proposal, we have NPR's immigration correspondent John Burnett joining us from Austin.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hi, Melissa.
BLOCK: John, does the president's proposal that he talked about this afternoon move the ball forward in any way? Do you hear anything new?
BURNETT: Well, what he's done is resurrect an earlier bipartisan legislation known as the BRIDGE Act, which didn't go anywhere. And it would allow an estimated 700,000 of the so-called DREAMers to remain in the country legally. As we've said, these are the young immigrants who were brought by their parents to the U.S. without authorization when they were children under 16 before 2017. And the way it works is if they pass a background check, and if they can prove they're working or in school or serving in the military, they can get work permits, Social Security numbers and relief from deportation. That's the big one. It's the Obama program called DACA - as you said, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The deal Trump announced today - he would allow those recipients to continue to live in the country with these protections for three years. And, as it is, they have to renew their status every two years, which leaves them vulnerable to being deported.
BLOCK: So that's the deal that the president would like to see. Right now, it's a proposal. We've been talking about some other parts of what he had to say today. We just heard from Ayesha and Sue about some other things that maybe the Democrats might be looking on more favorably than the wall itself.
BURNETT: Yeah. And there's one more thing in there that was popular with the Democrats. Trump had reversed course on some actions he took earlier. He said today he would give three-year extensions to refugees who were in this country with temporary protected status. Earlier in his term, he'd revoked TPS for about 300,000 refugees who were allowed to come to the U.S. in recent decades fleeing wars and natural disasters. They're from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Nepal, Haiti and Sudan.
BLOCK: And then there's the border well.
BURNETT: Ah, yes.
BURNETT: Well, it hasn't changed, Melissa. And it's still in the latest proposal we heard this afternoon - 230 miles of border barrier at a cost of a whopping $5.7 billion. And remember, this would be in addition to the 650 miles of border barrier that's already there in segments from San Diego to Brownsville. Trump repeated he wants a see-through steel barrier in high-priority areas to protect us from undocumented immigrants and drug smugglers.
But a little bit of fact-checking here - the reality is that some illegal traffic won't be altered at all by more miles of tall, iron fence. For instance, we know the vast majority of illegal drugs smuggled into the U.S. comes through ports of entry, hidden in vehicles. And lots of asylum seekers surrender to border agents at ports of entry. And down here in Texas where I am, they can enter U.S. territory and give themselves up south of the existing border wall.
So there is this deep, deep disagreement over what kind of border security is the answer. We heard the congressman you just interviewed said the Democrats are more interested in a border security package with these high-tech measures like ground sensors and pole-mounted remote cameras and better X-ray gear for vehicles crossing through ports of entry.
BLOCK: And last question, John - what happens to the DREAMers, to the DACA recipients, if the Democrats say no deal on what the president's proposing?
BURNETT: Well, it looks like the Supreme Court doesn't have any plans to take up the action on DACA in its current term. And because of some federal court rulings that favor DACA, the government would have to keep it going for at least 10 more months. But, beyond that, DACA folks would still be living in limbo.
BLOCK: That's NPR's John Burnett. He covers immigration for us.
John, thanks so much.
BURNETT: My pleasure.
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