President Donald Trump has cast serious doubt on the future of 690,000 US residents brought illegally to the country as children by presenting Congress with a list of hardline immigration demands as a quid-pro-quo for protecting the so-called “Dreamers”.
A month after appearing to reach an understanding with his Congressional opponents, late on Sunday the White House served Democrats with an ultimatum demanding cooperation on one of Trump’s pet projects if they want to shield the youngsters from deportation.
The administration said Congress must fund a controversial border wall, help speed deportations and dramatically increase the corps of immigration officials — throwing sand in the gears of the proposed deal.
Last month, Trump and top Democrats appeared to have agreed to grant hundreds of thousands of so-called “Dreamers” — many whom know no other country but the United States — a form of amnesty and tackle the president’s other immigration priorities separately.
Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, whose September Oval Office meeting with Trump raised the right’s hackles, declared the new demands dead on arrival.
“We told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the Dream Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable,” the pair said in a joint statement.
Immigrants’ representatives were also outraged.
“The president’s demands are nothing more than a laundry list of cruelty towards immigrants,” said Hector Figueroa, head of a large labour union representing property services workers.
“Protecting Dreamers should not mean scapegoating and criminalising their parents and millions of other immigrants.”
But the demands place Democrats in a bind: ignoring Trump could result in 690,000 people being deported, and while acquiescing could save them it could also yet split the party.
Trump had been under political pressure from his right flank, who wholeheartedly embraced his anti-migrant views and were up in arms about the prospect of a lasting amnesty for the Dreamers.