- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2019

President Trump offered Democrats a deal to end the 29-day-old government shutdown Saturday by extending protections for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in return for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.

“I am here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on our southern border,” Mr. Trump said in an address from the White House. “This is a common-sense compromise both parties should embrace.”

Top Democrats quickly rejected the offer, saying the president must agree to reopen the government before they’ll negotiate on immigration or border security.

“I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate,” said Senate assistant Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois in a statement. “First, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell must open the government today. Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate. Third, I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the president’s plan “a compilation of previously rejected initiatives.”

Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat and a member of House leadership, tweeted: “We will never allow a shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Need to reopen government first.”

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III was one of the few Democrats to publicly express optimism about Mr. Trump‘s proposal.

“I’m hopeful the President’s statement tonight will allow us to immediately reopen gov, put WVians back to work & start negotiating long-term immigration reform,” Mr. Manchin tweeted. “I look forward to working w/my GOP & Dem colleagues to make this happen so that we can end this shameful shutdown.”

The proposal capped a week of escalating clashes between the president and Mrs. Pelosi, who has refused to consider money for a border wall. After she withdrew her invitation for Mr. Trump‘s State of the Union address, the president blocked Mrs. Pelosi and a congressional delegation from traveling on a military plane to visit U.S. troops Afghanistan.

White House aides said the proposal shows that Mr. Trump is willing to negotiate while Democratic leaders continue to stonewall on a solution to reopen government.

Just before his announcement, Mr. Trump hosted a naturalization ceremony in the Oval Office for five new citizens. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen administered the oath of citizenship, with the president and Vice President Mike Pence applauding.

“You have just earned the most prized possession anywhere in the world,” the president told them. “Each of you worked hard for this moment. You followed the rules … By taking this oath, you have forged a sacred bond with this nation.”

As an olive branch to Democrats, Mr. Trump is supporting the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill that grants protections from deportation for about 700,000 illegal immigrants who qualified for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

He also is backing legislation that would extend for three years reprieves from deportation for about 300,000 others with temporary protected status.

The president said once the government reopens and “we have made a down-payment on border security,” he plans to convene weekly bipartisan meetings at the White House “so we can do a finished product” on immigration reform.

“That is our plan,” Mr. Trump said. “Straightforward, fair, reasonable and common-sense, with lots of compromise.”

He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has pledged to bring the proposal for a vote this coming week.

The BRIDGE Act would allow those immigrants to remain in the country and receive work authorization for three years after the deal is approved. It would not grant a pathway to citizenship, unlike the Dream Act.

The proposal was a departure from Mr. Trump‘s position against including DACA in a border-wall deal. He has stated he prefers the courts to sort out the program’s fate; in 2017, Mr. Trump announced plans to phase out DACA.

The Supreme Court took no action Friday on Mr. Trump‘s bid to end deportation protections under DACA, suggesting the program may stay in place at least until the end of this year.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, Mr. Durbin, and others introduced the BRIDGE Act in 2017 to allow people who are eligible for or who have received work authorization and temporary relief from deportation under DACA to remain in the U.S.

Mr. McConnell called the plan “a bold solution to reopen the government, secure the border, and take bipartisan steps toward addressing current immigration issues.” He said he intends to vote on the proposal in the coming week and send the package to the Democrat-controlled House.

“Everyone has made their point—now it’s time to make a law,” Mr. McConnell said. “With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well. The situation for furloughed employees isn’t getting any brighter and the crisis at the border isn’t improved by show votes. But the president’s plan is a path toward addressing both issues quickly.”

But a prominent group that advocates for reductions in legal immigration quickly came out against the plan. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said the president’s offer “is a loser for the forgotten American workers who were central to his campaign promises.”

“An amnesty-for-wall trade would once again reward previous immigration lawbreakers without preventing future immigration lawbreakers,” Mr. Beck said in a statement. “This kind of amnesty deal will incentivize more caravans, more illegal border crossers and more visa overstayers at the expense of the most vulnerable American workers who have to compete with the illegal labor force.”

Influential conservative activist Ann Coulter tweeted her opposition as well: “Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!”

Mr. Trump cited the suffering of illegal migrants and their children, the damage done to Americans by drug smuggling, and the crimes committed in the U.S. by illegal immigrants.

“As a candidate for president, I promised I would fix this crisis,” he said. “And I intend to keep that promise one way or the other. The good news is these problems can all be solved, but only if we have the political courage to do what is just and what is right.”

The president noted that he and other administration officials have met with Democratic lawmakers in recent days, although not with Democratic leaders.

“Both sides in Washington must simply come together, listen to each other, put down their armor, build trust, reach across the aisle and find solutions,” Mr. Trump said. “It is time to reclaim our future from the extreme voices who fear compromise and demand open borders.”

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