- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2019

President Trump’s latest immigration proposal marks a retreat on three areas of policy in what the White House said was a “good faith” effort to try to break the gridlock that for more than a decade has thwarted every effort to strike a compromise on the thorny issue.

In each of those areas — the Obama-era DACA program, Temporary Protected Status and a new path for asylum for children in Central America — Mr. Trump had canceled the Obama administration’s initiatives.

On Saturday, he did an about-face and proposed to restore each of those programs. Going further, he offered approval to write them into law, giving them a permanence Mr. Obama could never win from Congress during his tenure.

In exchange, he is asking for $5.7 billion for his plans to build a border wall as well as changes to make it easier to deport illegal immigrant families and cut down on abuses of the asylum system.

He also proposed items both sides generally agree on, such as more technology to scan for drugs in vehicles at legal border crossings and a boost in the number of immigration judges to cut into the backlog of cases.

“Today represents a compromise offer,” Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in a briefing after the president’s announcement.

The embrace of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a major change. Just days ago, Mr. Trump said he didn’t want to do anything until the Supreme Court had a chance to decide on his 2017 attempt to phase out the deportation amnesty that is protecting about 700,000 “Dreamers.” Lower courts have split on that phaseout, leaving its future unclear. Mr. Trump proposed writing the DACA program into law for those already using it, giving them a guaranteed three years of protections.

Mr. Pence said Mr. Trump has been “persuaded this is the right thing to do, now.”

On Temporary Protected Status, the Homeland Security Department has signaled an end to the protection for as many as 300,000 people, some who have been protected for two decades by a program that, as its name suggests, was supposed to be temporary.

The White House in immigration negotiations last year resisted adding protected status holders into any deal, but that resistance has dissipated. Indeed, Temporary Protected Status was the issue that sparked Mr. Trump’s harsh comments about those countries last year when Democrats say he called Haiti and Central American nations “s—-hole” countries.

Mr. Pence on Saturday said Mr. Trump readily embraced adding the protected status deal into his proposal this time.

The Trump administration in 2017 also canceled the Obama administration’s Central American Minor program, which was designed to give children looking to get asylum in the U.S. a chance to apply from their home countries rather than make the dangerous trek north.

The program drew slim participation and was nixed — drawing serious criticism from Democrats, who said the president was forcing people to take the dangerous journey.

Mr. Trump is proposing to restart the Central American Minor program, this time with the full protections of law rather than an executive action.

Democrats would prefer to look at a full pathway to citizenship for the 1.5 million people who could qualify for DACA and the hundreds of thousands under Temporary Protected Status.

They also said Mr. Trump’s offer is disingenuous because he put Dreamers and TPS recipients in danger.

“It was effectively saying, ‘Look, I created a problem by taking away protections for Dreamers. I created another problem by taking away protections for refugees. I’m willing to undo part of the damage temporarily that I have inflicted to get my wall,’” Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “Well, that’s really not much of an offer. And it wasn’t intended to be.”

Mr. Trump has moderated his own request from an original plan for $18 billion to construct 700 miles of border barriers to the current proposals of $5.7 billion to build 230 miles.

He also wants to make it easier to deport illegal immigrant families by cutting down on abuses of the asylum system — items he has sought for two years. He has been stymied by Democrats who say illegal immigrants deserve a chance to make claims in the U.S.

Mr. Trump’s deal also includes items that both sides generally agree on, such as more technology to scan for drugs in vehicles at legal border crossings and a boost in the number of immigration judges to cut into the backlog of cases.

The Senate, led by Republicans, is slated to vote on Mr. Trump’s plans next week.

But House Democrats are unlikely to go along. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, rejected the president’s proposal. She said she will have her chamber vote instead on those few areas of overall agreement such as the immigration judges and scanning technology.

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