US President Donald Trump on Saturday offered to temporarily shield a million immigrants from deportation if Congress authorizes funding for his Mexican border wall — an idea Democrats rejected, making the US government shutdown likely to grind on.
Trump attempted to seize the initiative in ending the 29-day partial shutdown, a funding freeze that has left many important government departments relying on unpaid or highly reduced staff.
His bargain, announced in a televised White House address, held out the carrot of protection from deportation for two categories of immigrants.
These include 700,000 so-called “Dreamers,” children of people who settled illegally in the United States, and who have become a favorite cause of the Democrats, as well as 300,000 other immigrants whose protected status is expiring, Trump said.
The president said these concessions would “build the trust and goodwill necessary to begin real immigration reform.”
In return, Trump demanded the $5.7 billion he says is needed to extend fences on the border with Mexico, something the opposition Democrats have repeatedly refused to authorize. That has prompted the president to retaliate with the government shutdown, which he triggered by not signing off on funding to swaths of departments.
The president also called for $800 million in “urgent humanitarianassistance” and $805 million for drug detection technology to help secure US ports of entry.
“I’m here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border,” Trump said in his address.
Trump describes the US-Mexico border — for decades a magnet for migrants and asylum seekers, as well as a major drug smuggling route — as overwhelmed, posing a threat to US national security.
Democrats, who accuse Trump of using his illegal immigration crackdown to score political points with his right-wing base, spurned the latest negotiating offer as soon as it was leaked in the media prior to the speech.
“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,” said Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives and the face of Democratic opposition to Trump. “They are a non-starter.”
And Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the US Senate, noted that Trump himself had scrapped previously existing protection for the immigrants whom he is now offering to shield.
“Offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking,” Schumer tweeted.