President Donald Trump on Saturday proposed limited legal protections for undocumented immigrants in exchange for money to build his proposed border wall, a plan meant to put pressure on congressional Democrats as the longest government shutdown ever drags into its 29th day.
In remarks at the White House, Trump again pushed for $5.7 billion in U.S. funding to build "steel barriers in high-priority locations" — different from the Mexican government-funded concrete wall across the entire southern border that he proposed as a candidate. But the proposal quickly came under fire from recalcitrant Democrats, as well as conservatives leery of any deal that embraced "amnesty."
The offer likely will not lead to a deal to reopen the nine U.S. agencies that remain unfunded as concerns grow about the 800,000 federal workers going without pay. Before Trump announced the proposal Saturday, Democratic leaders rejected it as inadequate or even "unacceptable" as details emerged in media reports.
The president backed legislation to give more than 700,000 immigrants, known as "Dreamers," temporary legal status and work authorization for three years if their protection gets revoked. He also supported a three-year extension of the legal status of immigrants temporarily protected from deportation.
The president called his plan "straightforward, fair, reasonable and common sense" with "lots of compromise." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to bring the bill to a vote this week, which will fail unless seven Democrats support it. McConnell previously said he would not move a plan to end the government shutdown unless both the president and Democratic leaders back it.
Trump described his Saturday offer as a way to "break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border." He did not mention the government worker furloughed or working without pay during his comments.
Trump said the proposal includes some other provisions:
- $800 million in "urgent humanitarian assistance"
- $805 million for "drug detection technology to help secure our ports of entry"
- 2,750 more border patrol agents and law enforcement officials
- 75 new immigration judge teams
- A mechanism to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries
The olive branch comes as Trump faces pressure to end the partial closure that has inflicted financial pain on government workers, and disrupted services from food inspection to airport security. The president's demand for money to construct the barrier — and Democrats' refusal to fund it — led to the funding lapse that polls say Americans are increasingly blaming on Trump.