White House Messaging On Amnesty Deal Shifts After Conservative Criticism

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump’s bid to protect hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants will likely be coupled with a decrease in legal immigration and not include a path to citizenship, according to the White House’s legislative director.

Trump has called for Congress to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries and the prospect of this legislative amnesty has caused some conservatives to worry, particularly on Thursday after Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said that Trump agreed to keep border wall funding out of a Congressional deal.

“Looks like Bannon got it wrong,” conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted Thursday. “That shadowy force trying to nullify the 2016 election … is [Donald Trump].”

Trump, however, started Friday with a series of tweets appealing to conservatives and wrote in one, “CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!” His Thursday morning tweets included a pair in which he wondered who wouldn’t want to give amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Ending chain migration has long been a dream of immigration hawks. Chain migration is the practice in which lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and citizens sponsor non-nuclear family members. The Raise Act, which the White House supports, would end chain migration and implement a merit-based system, effectively halving immigration over the next 10 years.

White House legislative director Marc Short said in a Friday MSNBC interview that “ending chain migration is an important part” of a congressional fix to the immigration system. He added that border security enforcement and interior immigration enforcement are key facets.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said that Trump supports the Dream Act. The House version of the legislation could allow up to 1 million illegal immigrants to obtain green cards, while the Senate version makes provisions for up to 1.8 million. After five years with a green card, an immigrant can apply for citizenship.

Short, however, said on MSNBC that the White House is not currently “entertaining” the prospect of a path to citizenship. It is unclear then what sort of lawful protections these DACA beneficiaries would receive.

As for the border wall, which Trump insists will be built, Short pointed to the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Politifact noted in January that if Congress funded the authorization given by the law, Trump could start building a border wall.