WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s request that Congress protect illegal immigrants is not a change of heart, but something Trump has always supported, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Trump presented a hard-line immigration policy on the campaign trail and said during an August 2016 campaign speech that “there will be no amnesty.”
“Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country,” he stated during the speech.
However, last week President Trump announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program will be rescinded in six months and that Congress has until then to “legalize DACA,” which protects roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants from deportation.
When asked during Tuesday’s White House press briefing about Trump’s support of amnesty, Sanders replied, “I think the president has spoken out very clearly that he wants us to make this decision based on a variety of factors. But the number one thing is that he wants responsible immigration reform and part of that is including that in the process.”
She went on to say that Trump “always wanted responsible immigration reform.”
Trump did mention immigration reform during that Arizona immigration speech in 2016, but in a much different manner.
“When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, and lower wages,” Trump said in reference to politicians such as Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The reforms Trump mentioned in that speech include ramping up deportations, securing the border, and reforming the legal immigration system in order to choose immigrants based on merit. Trump has worked to accomplish all of these goals in office, and statistics released Monday show that border crossings have significantly dropped under his watch.
However, Trump’s wish to protect DACA beneficiaries was not part of the reforms he laid out in his campaign speech. Some Republicans are now hoping to use a potential amnesty as an opportunity to pass border security measures and limit legal immigration.
It is unclear if Congress will end up being able to give amnesty to these illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children with a loaded agenda including tax reform, health care reform, infrastructure, and giving relief to areas damaged by recent hurricanes.
The president did say in a tweet last week that if Congress fails to “legalize DACA,” then he will “revisit” his decision.