- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2018

President Trump said Sunday that immigration negotiations appear to have broken down and Democrats are to blame, saying they have refused to meet his demands to increase border security and reform a flawed legal system.

Democrats, and some allied Republicans, countered that they’ll try to work around the president, hoping to build support for the amnesty plan they tried to sell to the White House last week — but which Mr. Trump rejected in a meeting where he used extreme language to talk about Haiti, El Salvador and other countries.

But the deepening rift between the two sides could send the government careening into a partial shutdown later this week, if Democrats insist on approval an amnesty for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” as part of any action on a new spending bill, which is due Friday.

Some Democrats, pressured by immigrant-rights groups and liberal activists, have said they won’t allow any spending bill to pass without the amnesty, and party leaders are trying to figure out whether to embrace the fight — and how much blame they would take.

While the Friday deadline is real on the spending side, it’s an artificial deadline for immigration. The Trump administration’s phaseout of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which was supposed to be completed on March 5 — is on hold, and Homeland Security officials said Saturday they’ll start accepting applications again to comply with a court order.

Now that some 700,000 DACA folks can regain their protections and permission to work in the U.S., there’s less actual urgency. But activist groups said they’ll still push Friday’s deadline for action or a shutdown.

Trump killed DACA and this latest back and forth on doesn’t change that. The fact remains that immigrant youth are either living in danger and policymakers must deliver the permanent protection of the Dream Act by January 19th,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream, said in a statement.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Trump said he was ready to strike a deal on DACA but Democrats won’t do it.

“We are ready willing and able to make a deal on DACA, but I don’t think the Democrats want to make a deal,” Mr. Trump said. “The folks from DACA should know the Democrats are the ones that aren’t going to make a deal.”

The president upped the pressure on Democrats in reponse to questions from reporters as he entered Trump International Golf Club, accompanied by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was his dinner guest.

“Honestly, I don’t think the Democrats want to make a deal. I think they talk about DACA but they don’t want to help the DACA people,” said Mr. Trump.

The two sides had appeared to be making progress early last week, after a meeting at the White House on Tuesday saw lawmakers emerge to say they’d agreed on four principles for any bill: legal status for Dreamers, more border security, limits to the chain of family migration an end to the Diversity Visa Lottery, which doles out immigration passes based on pure chance.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Richard Durbin, a Democrat, struck a deal between themselves that called for a generous pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, gave Mr. Trump less than 10 percent of his border wall and a slim reduction — if any — in chain migration.

The plan would eliminate the visa lottery, but used those passes to create a new amnesty for Haitians, Salvadorans and other would-be illegal immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. under special protections because of natural disasters back home.

It was that last proposal that seemed to irk Mr. Trump, who reportedly complained about allowing in migrants from “sh — hole countries.” The president denies using that term and at least one Republican senator in the meeting backs him up, while Mr. Durbin says he did use the term.

Mr. Graham, who himself called Mexico and other Latin American countries “hellholes” during the 2013 immigration debate, said in a statement he confronted Mr. Trump over his language — but didn’t say exactly what words the president used.

Still, the words have further poisoned the debate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said after Mr. Trump’s remarks that Congress should pass a standalone amnesty without any border security or other add-ons.

“The confusion of the last week has clouded the debate, but what is clear is that must we must insist upon a clean DREAM Act, which is supported overwhelmingly by the American people, has bipartisan support in Congress and must be enacted in January,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Graham and Mr. Durbin said they would try to build support for their plan, brushing aside Mr. Trump’s complaints that it’s not good enough.

Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and one of those who’s part of the Graham-Durbin talks, countered Mr. Trump’s claim that Democrats aren’t dealing in good faith.

“I can tell you I’ve been negotiating and working with the Democrats on immigration for 17 years and on this issue, on DACA or on the DREAM Act for a number of years, and the Democrats are negotiating in good faith,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Graham and Mr. Durbin say they’ve got the only bipartisan proposal, and they’re hoping people flock to them ahead of the Friday deadline.

Still to be seen is how Congress reacts to the restarting of DACA applications.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of Homeland Security, announced late Saturday that it would begin taking renewal applications from 800,000 people previously approved.

The program will go back to where it was on Sept. 5, before Homeland Security said it was beginning a six-month phaseout of the 2012 amnesty.

The agency was responding to a stunning decision by Judge William Alsup earlier this month, who said Mr. Trump cut legal corners in announcing the phaseout.

The judge reached back to Mr. Trump’s campaign comments about migrants from Mexico to conclude the president had racial animus toward Hispanics, and so the decision — even though it was made officially by the Homeland Security Department and not the president — was illegal.

Judge Alsup, a Clinton appointee to the bench, also ruled DACA itself likely legal, marking the first time a court has reached that conclusion.

The ruling flies in the face of a decision several years back by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled a similar 2014 deportation amnesty illegal based largely on the operations of DACA. That court didn’t actually rule DACA illegal, though, because DACA wasn’t specifically challenged in that case.

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this article.

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