White House: Border Wall Doesn’t Have To Be Tied To Amnesty

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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White House legislative director Marc Short said Tuesday that an amnesty for nearly a million illegal immigrants would not have to be tied to funding for a border wall.

President Donald Trump announced last week that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program will be ended in six months in order to give Congress time to “legalize DACA.” The amnesty, started by President Barack Obama in 2012, protects roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants from deportation.

“We’re most interested in getting border security and the president has made a commitment to the American people that he wants, he believes that a physical barrier is important to that equation of border security,” Short said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I don’t want to bind us into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible.”

A southern border wall was a central facet of Trump’s presidential campaign. The administration has moved forward on the initiative and recently named contractors who will build 30-foot high concrete prototypes. Funding for the wall, however, has been lacking as a White House budget request for the wall that Congress backed only funded 60 miles of new walling.

“The president is not backing off a border wall,” Short said Tuesday. “The president is committed to sticking by the commitment that a physical structure is needed. … Whether that is part of a DACA package or another package, I won’t prejudge that today, but he’s committed to getting that wall built.”

Many Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have been adamant that some sort of border security measures would have to be included in a bill that gives legal status to DACA beneficiaries. Democratic leadership and Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake prefer a clean Dream Act that would give about a million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and no added border security.

Many immigration hawks, including Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, would rather bind an amnesty to the Raise Act, a bill supported by the White House that would halve legal immigration over 10 years. (RELATED: Tom Cotton Wants To Offset ‘Dreamer’ Amnesty With Cuts To Chain Migration)

Short mentioned during the breakfast that the “merit-based immigration system” implemented by the Raise Act is a White House priority.