Mike Pence: ‘This is not amnesty’
The White House flatly denied accusations from conservatives that President Trump’s new immigration plan Saturday is an “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, insisting that it’s only a temporary salve that does not offer a full pathway to citizenship.
“There is no amnesty in the president’s plan and there is no pathway to citizenship,” Vice President Mike Pence told reporters at the White House, minutes after Mr. Trump laid out his proposal in an address from the Oval Office.
Mr. Pence, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law, cast the new deal as the best chance to end the government shutdown and to make sure employees don’t miss a second paycheck as the shutdown nears a month in length.
They called the plan a good-faith attempt to craft a middle ground between the hard-right, which has decried any effort to offer legal status to illegal immigrants, and the hard-left, which has said it will resist any money for new border fencing, and demands a full amnesty for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” with no other conditions attached.
“Today represents a compromise offer,” Mr. Pence said.
Mr. Mulvaney, a former member of the House, said he’s already had Democratic friends in Congress text him to say the plan sounds reasonable though he didn’t divulge any names.
Indeed, so far the reaction from Democratic leaders suggests they will try to rally their troops to resist the plan, saying it gives Mr. Trump what he wants on border security, while not going far enough to help illegal immigrants.
Mr. Pence brushed aside those complaints, saying he thought they’d been written “before the speech was made,” and he urged Democrats to take a new look at what Mr. Trump laid out.
He and the other officials said they put together the plan by talking with rank-and-file Democrats, taking some of their ideas and adding them to what Mr. Trump wants. They said they decided to talk to the back-benchers to try to break the gridlock left when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Mr. Trump at a meeting earlier this month she would never entertain any border wall money.
The president’s proposal would include $5.7 billion for his wall-building plans, as well as changes to make it easier to deport illegal immigrant families, cutting down on abuses of the asylum system both items he’s sought.
In exchange, it would offer hundreds of millions of dollars in new humanitarian money for safety and health of illegal immigrants, it would restore a program the Trump administration ended in 2017 to allow Central American children to apply for U.S. asylum from their home countries, and it would create a three-year legal status for about 700,000 people currently here under the Obama-era DACA program, and some 300,000 people here under humanitarian protections, who might otherwise become illegal immigrants soon.
The deal also includes 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.
The Senate will take a vote on the plan next week, and Mr. Mulvaney said the fate of the shutdown and workers’ paychecks rests on it.
“If the bill is filibustered Tuesday ... they will not get paid,” he said.
While Democrats attacked the bill from the left, some of Mr. Trump’s supporters on the right were enraged that he was embracing some legal status for illegal immigrants and indeed, went beyond the DACA population to also include some 300,000 people here under Temporary Protected Status.
“Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” tweeted activist Ann Coulter, referring to Jeb Bush, one of Mr. Trump’s GOP opponents in 2016, who had been a prominent advocate for legalizing illegal immigrants.
That “amnesty” complaint was echoed by other immigration activists.
Mr. Pence replied that the bill is only a three-year status though he and Mr. Kushner made clear that if they can find agreement with Democrats on this, it could build the trust to open the door to broader negotiations on major immigration reforms.
“If we can get through this I think there is a way toward having a lot of next steps,” Mr. Kushner said.