DACA, Asylum Restrictions Would Tighten Under Trump’s Proposal

  • Protections in bill text narrower than president suggested
  • Immigration groups on both sides find provisions they oppose

Legal immigration for Central American children and undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors and are commonly known as Dreamers would be more restricted under a Trump administration proposal to be voted on in the Senate this week.

Legislative language for the proposal released Monday night revealed a more restrictive immigration proposal than President Donald Trump outlined in his Jan. 19 address to the nation. Trump had positioned the bill as a compromise to end the government shutdown while simultaneously funding his promised border wall and providing immigration protections popular among Democrats. But the details make it less likely Democrats will move on the measure.

Asylum Limits Added to Bill to End Shutdown Anger Democrats

Immigration advocates said the plan would drastically cut legal protections for some of the groups Trump promised it would safeguard, including those protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Central American minors, and individuals with Temporary Protected Status, who have fled countries facing natural disasters or wars.

Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold illuminated signs during a rally supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program outside the U.S. Capitol building.

“This bill does a bait and switch,” Greg Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in an interview. “This is actually a strategy to cut out people and deport more individuals. He’s given far less than what he promised in his speech.”

Groups favoring limited immigration, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, also pushed back on the plan, saying it went too far in trading amnesty for a portion of border wall funding.

“Any deal that seeks to trade amnesty—in this case the extension of an amnesty—for enforcement is a bad deal,” RJ Hauman, government relations director at FAIR, said in an email.

Hauman said the group opposes any deal that codifies DACA before the U.S. Supreme Court has time to review its legality in the first place. Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases that that could make this determination until at least the end of the year. The bill would extend work protections for DACA recipients for three years.

Bad Faith Offer

The legislation would end a lapse in funding that has left 800,000 federal workers unpaid since the end of December, and shut down nine departments and other agencies.

In his speech on Saturday, Trump said his plan would include a “new system to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries, and reform to promote family reunification for unaccompanied children.”

Under the draft legislation, minors from Central America would no longer be able to apply for asylum at the U.S. border, but instead would need to apply at centers the State Department would set up in the region. Minors would also need to have qualified parents or guardians already living in the U.S. to be approved. Asylum application claims would be capped at 50,000, with a maximum of 15,000 being granted.

Unaccompanied minors from Central American countries who may be victims of human trafficking would be easier to deport to their home countries under the bill without a full asylum review.

The bill would limit the extension of DACA protections to only those currently enrolled in the program—a number that has been shrinking under the Trump administration—rather than to everybody eligible for the status. Application fees for the program would also increase and judicial reviews for application denials would end.

Protections for those with Temporary Protected Status would be extended for three years, but only for individuals from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti, excluding individuals in the program from other countries, including Sudan and Liberia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com