In Exchange For Border Wall Funding, Trump Proposes Temporary Immigrant Protections

Jan 19, 2019
Originally published on January 19, 2019 5:29 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

President Trump calls it a common sense compromise. Congressional Democrats call it a non-starter. And that's where we are after today's offer, made late this afternoon by the president to get government agencies back up and fully running. The partial shutdown is now in its fifth week. The president offered a three-year reprieve from deportation for the so-called DREAMers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and for other foreign-born residents given temporary protected status. But the president repeated his key demand - the demand that gave rise to the stalemate over funding the government.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To physically secure our border, the plan includes $5.7 billion for a strategic deployment of physical barriers or a wall. This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea.

BLOCK: And this has been a non-starter for Democrats. But the president said both sides must now in, his words, put down their armor, build trust and come together.

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TRUMP: It is time to reclaim our future from the extreme voices who fear compromise and demand open borders, which means drugs pouring in, human trafficking and a lot of crime.

BLOCK: So what now? Well, I'm joined by NPR's White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe and our congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

Welcome to you both.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hi, Melissa.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

BLOCK: And, Ayesha, let's start with you. Why don't you give us a bit more detail on what the president's proposing?

RASCOE: So yes. So he's offering most of what they were already asking for - so the $5.7 billion for a steel barrier on the southern border and some other - some more money for inspections at the ports and also for more judges, more border agents - and all of that in exchange for extensions on the DACA recipients and for those who have temporary protected status - this three-year extension for both. And the idea that he was putting forward is that those three years would then be used to come up with a larger immigration proposal to deal with the issues that Washington has been trying to deal with for years now. But that was - so that is the offer from President Trump.

BLOCK: And the DACA recipients, or the DREAMers, as they're known - they've been held as a bargaining chip before. So what's new, if anything, in what the president's offering today?

RASCOE: It's not necessarily that anything is new here. Some of these - all of these have been floating around for a while. And there was a much bigger deal on the table before - long before these - before the shutdown of the government that would have had $25 billion in exchange for some DACA - for compromise on DACA. But this is basically just he's saying, this is what I will give you now to get the government back open. We will have a temporary extension of DACA. And hopefully, that will help ease it for - because there are hardliners on his side who do not want to see DACA recipients stay in the U.S., even for a temporary extension.

BLOCK: Right. So - which raises the question of how this would play with the president's base.

RASCOE: This is a risk for him. Right now, we already are seeing tweets from Ann Coulter saying that this is amnesty. People from the Heritage Foundation, which is conservative, are also saying this is amnesty and that this will encourage more people to come into the country illegally. So we can say that there will be some pushback from people on President Trump's side to this deal.

BLOCK: Sue Davis, let me turn to you for the view from Congress. Talk about pushback - if this - if they were going to throw cold water on this, the Democrats, I'm not sure it could get much more cold.

DAVIS: (Laughter) Well, Democrats pretty quickly and even before the president spoke, as details started to leak out, pretty quickly and clearly rejected this proposal for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Democrats say that they will not negotiate on anything until the government's up and running, that you can't use shutdowns as a negotiating tactic. Get it up and running, then we talk. I think the offer of temporary status for a short term is not good enough. Long-term status, permanent status might have been a starting point. This is not something that Democrats are willing to negotiate on, very much with the support of the DREAMer community, saying, don't compromise on this. So they have the support there.

It's worth noting that Democrats are willing to spend more money on border security. They're going to vote on bills again this coming week to open up the government. They're going to add in more money on border security, for ports of entry, for other - any number of things there is agreement on. They're just not willing to compromise on the wall itself.

BLOCK: And some of that funding the president was mentioning today as well - more money for drug detection at ports of entry, more immigration judge teams - things like that.

DAVIS: That is not why this stalemate continues.

BLOCK: Right.

DAVIS: The stalemate continues over the wall. And I think Democrats - you know, they don't really feel the same kind of pressure on this. I think the party has been largely unified on it, largely unified on the strategy behind the speaker. And I think, in the contrast to the - where the base might be questioning the president on the right, on the left, immigration activists are really saying to Democrats, do not back down here. Do not back down on the wall.

BLOCK: What about immigration rights activists? How will their views affect Democrats' willingness to make a deal with the president?

DAVIS: I think the immigration rights community sees this administration and this president as incredibly hostile to them and to their long-term goals. And I think they're very suspect when he seems to extend an olive branch when you consider the macro perspective of the immigration policies that this administration has put forward. And what they have clearly said today again - early, even before the president outlined his speech - saying do not compromise on the wall. And they see it as a physical manifestation of policies out of this White House that, quite frankly, they view as racist.

BLOCK: And, briefly, Ayesha, one last topic for you. We saw on Thursday BuzzFeed reporting that President Trump had directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie before Congress. Then we saw the office of special counsel Robert Mueller issuing a really unusual statement calling that report not accurate. Has there been more reaction to all that from the White House today?

RASCOE: Yes. President Trump has been tweeting about this. And basically, he says that he thinks that having Mueller push back on the BuzzFeed story that it's going to hurt the credibility of the press. He's calling it this - he called the story disgraceful. And even talking to reporters, he said that he was thankful to the special counsel's office for putting out this statement - which is not something you usually hear from the president thanking Mueller.

BLOCK: Exactly.

NPR's Ayesha Rascoe and also Susan Davis - thanks to you both.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.