Trump: Democrats Don’t Want to Include DACA in Talks on Ending Shutdown

January 13, 2019 Updated: January 13, 2019

Democratic lawmakers don’t want to include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—the protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children—in negotiations with the White House on ending the partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump said in a Twitter post dated Jan. 13.

“Democrats are saying that DACA is not worth it and don’t want to include in talks,” Trump said. “Many Hispanics will be coming over to the Republican side, watch.”

Trump and the Democrats have been debating border security funding, which triggered a shutdown of about quarter of the federal government on Dec. 22. Now in its third week, it represents the longest shutdown in modern history, beating the previous record of 21 days in 1995 under then-President Bill Clinton.

In his typical carrot-and-stick approach, Trump offered to compromise on the specifics of his demand for $5.7 billion for border wall construction but also threatened to shut down the southern border and/or use executive power to build the wall without funding appropriation from Congress.

In the latest twist, Trump said he may declare a national emergency, calling the situation at the border a “crisis.” He pointed to drug smuggling, human trafficking, gang violence, and other crimes connected with illegal immigration and border trespassing, as well as the violence and other dangers faced by migrants who are seeking illegal entry.

The emergency declaration would allow Trump broader discretion over redirecting federal funding, though using it for the wall construction would likely be challenged in court.

The Democrats have categorically refused funding for the wall, calling it wasteful and ineffective even after previously supporting funding for border barriers multiple times in the past. They also call the border crisis “manufactured.”

Trump has the backing of many border security and law enforcement officials both on the wall’s necessity and about describing the situation as a crisis.

DACA Questioned

DACA was established through an executive order from Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. It provides work permits and protects applicants who are in the country illegally from being deported, provided they came to the United States before the age of 16 and have lived here since at least June 15, 2007. Republicans have questioned the constitutionality of DACA, calling it an executive overreach.

In September 2017, Trump rescinded the program but the action was challenged in court. In January and February, federal judges in New York and California put Trump’s action on hold while the lawsuits played out. The program hasn’t accepted new applicants but still issues renewals to those already in—some 700,000 individuals.

Trump previously said he expected the Supreme Court to rule on the issue sometime this year, perhaps in the summer. The president expects the justices will strike DACA down as unconstitutional; in his favor is the court’s conservative-leaning majority, secured after Trump filled two vacancies.

DACA for Wall?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Dec. 31 the president was open to the idea of giving out a three-year work permit and deportation protections to the DACA population in exchange for wall funding.

“I think that’s in the realm of possibility,” Graham said. “The president didn’t commit but I think he’s very open-minded.”

Trump said a week ago he would “consider DACA” as part of the negotiations, though he would prefer to wait for the Supreme Court ruling.

“I think we’d complicate it,” he told reporters on Jan. 6. “I’d rather have the Supreme Court rule and then work with the Democrats on DACA.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has dismissed including DACA in a deal to reopen the government.

“We haven’t had that discussion,” she said at a Jan. 10 press conference. “What we’re talking about now is just the president’s insistence on a wall.”

Pelosi said DACA should be part of a debate on comprehensive immigration reform.

Several attempts at immigration reform failed last year in Congress. Trump backed protections, even legal status for the DACA population. In exchange, he wanted $25 billion for the border wall and other security and shifting immigration to a more merit-based system.

Democrats have, in the past, proposed amnesties for millions of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors and possibly also their parents. They also have pushed for environmental and other restrictions on border wall construction.

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Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab
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