President Donald Trump tried to shift pressure onto the Democrats Saturday by offering a raft of immigration reforms in exchange for $5.7 billion for a physical barrier on the border with Mexico, a demand that triggered the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The president’s deal includes a lot of things Democrats have supported in the past: three years of protection for 700,000 so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, three-year protections on temporary protected status (TPS) for 300,000 immigrants, $800 million for humanitarian assistance, $805 million for drug detection technology, 2,750 new border agents, and 75 new immigration judges.
“This is a commonsense compromise both parties should embrace,” Trump said in a speech that largely mirrored his primetime television address on a “humanitarian crisis at the border” earlier this month. “The radical Left can never control our borders.”
The offer was as much a play for public opinion as a serious policy proposal for Democrats. With a partial government shutdown in its fourth week, and 800,000 federal workers going without pay for a full month, the president is attempting to put the onus on Democrats, who declared the offer dead on arrival.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it 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.
Senator.gotiations occur on immigration.
"First, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell must open the government today,” he said in a statement. “Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate. Third, I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues."
Trump has already attempted to rescind both Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era executive action which protects Dreamers, and TPS protections on deporting undocumented immigrants to countries that are unsafe. Both times, he’s been blocked from doing so through court order. Democrats have long demanded a permanent solution for DACA recipients, and Pelosi said in her statement on Saturday that what Trump offered is only temporary.
In the speech, Trump refused to budge on his demand for a 230-mile wall along the southern border, which 58 percent of Americans disagree with, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
“This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea; these are steel barriers in high-priority locations,” Trump said.
The offer comes on the 29th day of a partial government shutdown that was triggered in December when the president refused to sign a Senate-approved spending bill that did not include funding for the wall. The shutdown affects nine agencies including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, and the Treasury Department.
Essential employees have been called back to work without pay in agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Transportation Security Administration. Polls show Americans blame Trump for the shutdown, and his approval rating slid to 39 percent in January, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, even among key demographics within his base like white evangelicals, suburban men, and white men without a college degree.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already agreed to bring Trump’s proposal to a vote this week. “Everyone has made their point. Now it’s time to make law,” McConnell said in a statement after Trump’s speech.
Democrats haven’t been swayed so far. Pelosi deemed the border wall “immoral” on Jan. 4. Trump said it’s the “opposite of immoral” during his speech Saturday.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Photo: Ron Sachs/Pool via Bloomberg)