WASHINGTON – After years of high-profile debates on a border fence and a path to citizenship, the biggest obstacle to a bipartisan agreement on DACA is rapidly becoming legal immigration, a topic on which President Donald Trump has presided a monumental change in the approach of the Republican Party.
Both parties have given ground in other places. A new proposal from the White House on Thursday would yield significant ground to "Dreamers," with a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people illegally brought to the United States as children. He also asks for $ 25 billion for a wall, which the Democrats (at least briefly) had already suggested they would finance to a large extent.
In legal immigration, however, the proposal puts them miles away. It reflects a fundamental and growing ideological divide between the Democrats and many Republicans who see immigration as a net asset and Trump and his allies, who have represented immigrants as an unwanted burden and a threatening presence.
The White House currently requires that an agreement on DACA beneficiaries eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which issues 50,000 green cards a year in countries with few immigrants to the United States, along with family immigration categories for siblings and parents.
While some of the visas eliminated in the White House plan would be used to clear current green card applications, immigration advocates say the long-term effects are similar to the hard-line proposals in the House and Senate that would reduce general immigration by 40 to 50 percent.
Senators David Perdue, R-Ga. and Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who has a bill backed by the White House that would cut legal immigration in half, quickly backed the plan. Democratic leaders, including Whir Minority of the Senate Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and the leader of the Democratic minority, Nancy Pelosi, a Republican from California, quickly declared him dead on arrival, and both cited their immigration legal provisions.
Cristina Jiménez, co-founder of the Dreamer United We Dream defense group, rejected the White House proposal as "nativist wish list" even when she approached the administration to the demands of the activists for a path to citizenship.
Republicans and Democrats working on an immigration agreement have warned that accepting legal immigration and other issues is likely to be an obstacle. Trump's proposal threatens to blow up those negotiations just as they begin.
"This should be a more focused discussion," Sen. Angus King of I-Maine told NBC News on Monday. "For me, the logic has always been DACA and border security."
Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech on Thursday morning that Republicans could not reach an agreement demanding a "great restriction of legal immigration," which compared the Democrats demanding a path to democracy. citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in a DACA solution.
On the other hand, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., A member of the Republican leadership, also told reporters that "it becomes stricter," according to Politico.
"Legal migration, broader immigration reform, TPS, asylum policy, unaccompanied minors: that kind of thing will have to be the second round," said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican for Arizona. he told NBC News on Monday. "We can not deal with all of them."
A fundamental division
The demands of the Republican Party fit into a broader campaign led by Trump. From allegedly ridiculing immigrants from "shithole countries" in private to publicly endorsing important green card cuts and planning to expel US residents from El Salvador and Haiti, the president has pursued policies that would eliminate foreign citizens in the United States and reduce the number could come in the future
"That's probably why it has become a stalemate," said Andrew Selee, president of the Institute for Non-partisan Migration Policy. "This started as a fairly uncontroversial exchange between a very defined set of legal rights for a very defined population in exchange for border security expenditures, but it turned into a fight over much larger immigration issues."
Trump has denounced the immigrant communities of the United States in personal and false terms, telling followers that these groups represent "the worst of the worst" and that foreign governments conspire behind the scenes to send them to the United States. In fact, potential immigrants apply individually and must comply with the State Department's requirements on work and education while passing background checks.
The White House has demanded a "chain migration" account address in favor of a more skill-based approach, but "chain migration" is a vague term. Many pro-immigration legislators have endorsed, like Trump, previously ending some visa categories in favor of a new system that emphasizes economic needs and education.
But the real division is in the total levels of immigration, where the two parties are clearly expressed.
DACA's main Republican project in the House of Representatives, the United States' Future Security Law would cut by 38 percent, according to a CATO Institute report in favor of immigration. The RAISE Law backed by Trump, co-sponsored by Perdue and Tom Cotton, would reduce it by 43 percent
"It is not the method of how immigrants enter, but the number of people who enter, that is the real problem," he said. David Bier, co-author of the CATO report, to NBC News.
Bier said that the White House plan would likely have a substantially similar effect on legal immigration as the two existing GOP only bills.
A "remarkable" change
Republican leaders have mostly backed Trump's demands in principle, and his plan on Thursday received applause from even some relative moderates in the Senate while the president Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued statements without commitment.
This is in itself an important achievement for the movement that the Trump administration has channeled into the White House.
"It's remarkable that we're really debating this question now, and this would not be happening without Trump's election," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for fewer immigrants.
In previous years, prominent Republican leaders enthusiastically conceded the premise that legal immigration benefited the United States, while promising to crack down on illegal immigration. Much of the argument was economic: immigrants start businesses at high rates, pay taxes and raise children. Without them, the United States would suffer a decline in population, economic stagnation and greater deficits.
With few exceptions, such as then Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. and his then assistant Stephen Miller, the most prominent objections to the "Gang of Eight" proposal of 2013 related to illegal immigration, although it included important provisions to expand work visas and reorganize immigration categories . Some high-profile conservatives who voted against the bill even complained that they did not attract enough foreign workers: Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, offered an amendment to increase the number of H1B visas available by 500 percent.
But even before the election of Trump after a campaign rooted in anti-immigrant attacks, the Republicans moved to the right on the issue. Presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum and Scott Walker linked immigration to lower wages. Meanwhile, Cruz reneged on his previous position during the 2016 race and proposed freezing immigration levels until the economy improves.
Today Sessions and Miller are in the White House, and the transformation is complete.
A struggle for limits
Migratory pigeons say they are willing to address the problems that the president mentioned, but his approach is likely to be narrower. The Durbin-Graham proposal that the White House rejected would have cut the diversity lottery, for example, but transferred its visas elsewhere and used some for similar purposes.
Supporters of immigration argue that the gap between family and skills is exaggerated and that reunification should still be an important goal. Newly arrived immigrants are already more likely to have a college degree than Native Americans, according to Pew Research, including African immigrants who Trump said criticized at a recent White House meeting.
Those who support immigration also suspect that "merit" has a lot to do with Trump's real objectives. He reportedly told lawmakers that he would like to promote immigration from countries like Norway at the expense of the countries of Africa, a rhetoric that resembles ethnic nationalism more than any kind of individual meritocracy.
"The White House is using Dreamers to mask its underlying xenophobic, isolationist and anti-American policies," President of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress, Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. He said in a statement on Thursday.
Trump's framework may not be broad enough for groups like NumbersUSA, but the plan, like the administration that proposes it, would still push immigration policy more in its direction than any bill in decades.