President Trump Sets Showdown on Federal Budget and DACA, Seeks Much Stricter Immigration Enforcement

In a letter provided to Congress on Sunday, the White House set out a list of immigration policies and programs that it wants put into place in order to make a deal on extending DACA, the program that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to the remain in the country.  These policies would mark a fundamental shift in immigration laws and enforcement in America.

Most noticeable was funding for a wall on the southern border with Mexico – a theme of President Trump’s campaign, a topic that has become a lightning rod in Washington, and, according to many Democrats on Capitol Hill, a non-starter for negotiations on the federal budget.

But there were numerous other items in the letter, calling for wide-ranging change to immigration enforcement.  The White House asked for additional funding to hire 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents – the federal agents responsible for enforcing the removal of immigrants from the United States – as well as 1,000 new attorneys for ICE, 370 new immigration judges, and 300 new federal prosecutors.  The letter also called for denial of federal grants to “sanctuary cities” (discussed previously on our blog here) and additional restrictions on seeking asylum in America.

Moreover, the letter called for stricter enforcement of employers and employment-based immigration to the U.S., including crackdowns on unauthorized employment and a “points system” for obtaining permanent residence that would benefit certain applicants over others, based upon criteria established by Congress or the White House.  It also calls for an end to most family-based immigration to the United States, restricting sponsorship to spouses and minor children.  The current system allows for sponsorship of adult children and siblings, although wait times can often be extremely lengthy.  These would be substantial changes to the immigration system, affecting millions of people in the United States and around the globe.

Lindsay Walters, a spokeswoman for the White House, stated that the “president has made clear he wants Congress to act and pass responsible immigration reform in conjunction with any legislation related to DACA.”  Senator Tom Cotton stated that the “principles the president has put out show he understands what’s broken in our immigration system and what’s holding down wages for American workers,” and added that “I’m especially glad to see him call for ending chain migration and moving to a skills-based immigration system.”

Democrats entirely rejected the President’s requests.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a joint statement: the “Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans.”  They added, with reference to a dinner that they and the president had together last month during which they discussed immigration reforms, that “We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.”

As Congress debates President Trump’s demands, the NMM Immigration Blog will keep you updated on the latest news.  If you have questions about this post or other immigration topics, please contact me at

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