Trump met with Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers on Jan. 4 to discuss immigration issues, including some type of amnesty for DACA recipients.
In October 2017 Trump rescinded the temporary protection for DACA recipients and gave Congress until March to come up with a permanent fix.
Eligible DACA recipients entered the United States illegally with their parents when they were younger than 16, and in 2012 President Barack Obama gave them a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation and work authorization.
“I can tell you the Republicans want to see it work out very well. If we have support from the Democrats, I think DACA is going to be terrific,” Trump said on Jan. 4.
“We have to be careful because there’s a drug epidemic like the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country. We need protection. We need the wall. We need all of those things. And, frankly, I think a lot of Democrats agree with us. Whether they’ll vote that way is another situation, but they really understand it.”
In October, Trump outlined his priorities for immigration reform and has been clear that they must be adopted in exchange for any type of amnesty for DACA.
“Any legislation on DACA must secure the border with a wall,” Trump said. “It must give our immigration officers the resources they need to stop illegal immigration and also to stop visa overstays. And, crucially, the legislation must end chain migration. It must end the visa lottery.”
Trump also wants a merit-based system of immigration adopted in place of the current family-based system, which encourages chain migration.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said she was looking forward to working on immigration reform.
“As you know, border security, we have to have the wall and the technology and personnel that go with that, but we also need to close the loopholes that we can do the expedited removal because that’s a core part of border security,” she said. “So I look very much forward to working with you and others in Congress to get this done.”
The current legislation in the Senate—the DREAM Act, or S.1615—would give green cards to around 690,000 DACA recipients as well as another approximately 1.3 million people, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.
The DREAM Act was introduced to the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in July and has bipartisan support.
The CBO estimates that 3.25 million illegal aliens meet the basic eligibility criteria of the DREAM Act, but, based on DACA application rates, about 2 million would apply and be approved for conditional Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), or green card, status. Recipients would be expected to work toward removing the conditional part of the LPR and apply for naturalized citizenship within eight years.
“Their ages at the time they received the status would range from around 14 to the early 50s, with a median age in the late 20s,” the CBO report states. “The research indicates that the vast majority of conditional LPR recipients would be from Mexico or Central America.”
The CBO estimates that the DREAM Act would generate a net cost of $26 billion over the next 10 years—assuming only 2 million of the 3.1 million eligible aliens sign up for it.
The members of the Senate working group on immigration that met with Trump included chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).