White House DACA Demands Provoke Strong Reactions

Oct 9, 2017
Originally published on October 9, 2017 4:47 pm
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More now on the strong reactions to the White House's DACA demands. Those who favor lower levels of immigration have been effusive in their praise. Immigrant rights activists are outraged. Here's NPR's Joel Rose.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Remember a few weeks ago when the president seemed to be closing in on an immigration deal with, as he said at the time, Chuck and Nancy? A few Trump's supporters were so angry they protested by lighting their Make America Great Again baseball hats on fire and posting the videos online - safe to say those fires have cooled today. Immigration hardliners found much to like in the White House list.

JESSICA VAUGHAN: I think it's an excellent compilation of the things that Congress needs to fix in our immigration system.

ROSE: Jessica Vaughan is with the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower levels of immigration. She's happy to see the administration insist on hiring more immigration agents, writing tougher laws for asylum seekers and denying grants to so-called sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

VAUGHAN: People see this as a long list, but there really are a lot of problems and vulnerabilities and loopholes in our immigration system that have helped create the situation in which we find ourselves now where there are 12 million people living in the country illegally.

ROSE: But immigrant rights advocates are livid. They say the White House proposals would hurt some of the most vulnerable people seeking safety in the U.S.

LISA KOOP: We would be deporting people back to their death if we implemented some of the measures that are contemplated in this document.

ROSE: Lisa Koop is with the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago and teaches at the University of Notre Dame Law School. She says unaccompanied children and others fleeing violence in Central America would find it much harder to claim asylum in the U.S. under these policies.

KOOP: It suggests that they should then be summarily deported or expeditiously removed back to the very countries that they've been fleeing.

ROSE: These are not all new positions for the Trump administration. Many of them go back to the campaign trail. What is new is that they're tied in an explicit way to the fate of DACA. The Obama-era program has shielded roughly 800,000 undocumented young people from deportation and allowed them to work legally. But those protections are starting to expire as the Trump administration phases out DACA. Cristina Jimenez is the co-founder of United We Dream, which wants to extend and expand the program's protections.

CRISTINA JIMENEZ: Our lives are at stake, and the lives of thousands of immigrant youth that have been protected by the DACA program are at stake.

ROSE: In a letter to Congress that accompanied his list of immigration priorities, President Trump says they, quote, "must be included," unquote as part of any deal to extend DACA protections. Jimenez says the White House is using the so-called DREAMers as leverage in negotiations.

JIMENEZ: It's immoral, and it's unacceptable. And we will refuse to be used as bargaining chips.

ROSE: If the White House is serious about this entire list, Jimenez says, it suggests that the administration doesn't really want a deal on DACA. But Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies sees it differently. She thinks the White House is willing to compromise as long as it gets something it wants in return.

VAUGHAN: What President Trump is saying here is, look; here's a long list of the problems in our immigration system. Pick out some things here that we can get done, and I will support it as long as some of these things are accomplished.

ROSE: In the end, Vaughan says these are just recommendations. It's really Congress, not the White House, that will decide the future of DACA. Joel Rose, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.