Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says she would like to see a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but she believes any legislative amnesty should apply only to the illegal immigrants who originally qualified for protection.
Speaking to reporters during a trip to view wildfire damage in California, Nielsen said the administration is committed to a “permanent” solution for DACA beneficiaries.
“Everybody wants to find a solution — a permanent solution — to DACA,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “I mean I really haven’t talked to anybody who has said, ‘Nah, we don’t want to do that.'”
But Nielsen emphasized that any DACA amnesty should be limited to the roughly 800,000 younger illegal immigrants who received protections when the program was in effect, not everyone who was eligible.
Several replacement proposals floating around Capitol Hill would give legal status to far more people than the original DACA beneficiaries. The DACA bill favored by immigration activists and Democratic lawmakers — the Dream Act — would likely offer a path to citizenship for roughly 1.7 million former DACA recipients and similarly situated illegal immigrants.
President Donald Trump ended DACA — an Obama-era executive amnesty that shielded certain illegal immigrants who came to U.S. as children from deportation — in September and gave lawmakers until March 5 to come up with a legislative replacement. Since then, Congress has not been able to reach a compromise, with Democrats demanding a “clean” Dream Act while Republicans insist on additional border security measures and changes to immigration law.
Nielsen is optimistic that the White House and lawmakers can make a DACA deal that includes funding for a border wall, which she described as the administration’s “first and foremost” priority. Trump will ask for $1.6 billion next year for the wall, on top of $1.6 billion he has already proposed for building 74 miles of barrier in California and Texas, Nielsen said, according to the AP.
Last week, Trump also called for an end to the diversity visa lottery and limits on family-based immigration, commonly known as chain migration, as a part of a DACA replacement bill. Democratic leaders have said both proposals are nonstarters.
White House officials and congressional leaders are set to meet Wednesday to discuss 2018 budget priorities, and the DACA program is expected to be a focus of discussion.
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