Dreamers call Trump's offer to extend DACA for border-wall funding unacceptable
The head of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition on Saturday rejected President Donald Trump's proposal to extend an Obama-era program that protects young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers" from deportation in exchange for billions of dollars to build additional barriers along the border.
Karina Ruiz, a beneficiary of the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, said Trump was attempting to use Dreamers as bargaining chips.
Trump is trying to pressure Democrats to give in to his demands for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding to end the ongoing government shutdown, Ruiz said, even though Trump attempted to end the DACA program in the first place.
What's more, Trump's proposal, which he presented Saturday during a speech at the White House, did little to change the status quo for Dreamers already approved for the program, Ruiz said.
And it included no guarantee of a pathway to citizenship, which is what Ruiz said she and other Dreamers are fighting for.
"He is coming to the table with no more than we already have," said Ruiz, director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, which pushes for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, as undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children are known.
Trump's deal would end shutdown
Rudy Molera, chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Cruz County, listens and reacts to President Donald Trump's speech. Arizona Republic
In a bid to end the partial government shutdown, which at 29 days on Saturday was already the longest ever, Trump is proposing a compromise that would extend deportation protections for three years for the approximately 823,000 Dreamers currently approved for the DACA program, and an additional 300,000 undocumented immigrants who have been allowed to stay in the U.S. through what is called Temporary Protected Status.
Of the 823,000 Dreamers currently receiving work permits and protection from deportation under DACA, about 28,475 live in Arizona, the sixth-highest number of any state, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that administers the program.
Then-President Barack Obama created the DACA program in 2012.
At the time, Obama said the program was needed because Congress had failed to pass legislation that would allow Dreamers to legalize their status. But Republicans blasted the program as executive overreach while some critics said Obama created the program to regain support from Latino voters during a presidential election year. Many Latino voters had been angered by years of record deportations that affected Latino immigrant families and communities especially hard.
Trump campaigned in 2016 to terminate DACA and build a wall along the southern border that he repeatedly said Mexico would pay for.
In September 2017, Trump announced he was rescinding the DACA program. He told Congress to devise a permanent solution within six months to address Dreamers' legal status.
Several court orders put Trump's plan to end DACA on hold, and the program continues to allow Dreamers already approved for DACA to renew their permits every two years.
A federal appeals court ruled against President Trump's administration's effort to end DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. USA TODAY
'We can’t believe anything this president says'
In 2018, Congress failed to pass legislation that met Trump's demands that any DACA deal include billions in border-wall funding and cuts to the nation's family-based immigration system. Democrats have found those conditions unacceptable.
In his speech on Saturday, Trump said extending DACA and TPS for three years would give Congress time to pass legislation that would provide a permanent solution.
To Ruiz, that sounded like the same argument Trump made when he rescinded the program back in 2017 and then nothing happened.
She is afraid that if Democrats agree, Trump will get his $5.7 billion border wall while Dreamers and TPS recipients will be left without any guarantee for a permanent solution.
"We can’t believe anything this president says," Ruiz said. "We want Democrats to hold the line that is not going to spend money on a useless wall that is not going to solve any of the immigration issues that we have."
Dreamers want long-term solution
Antonio Valdovinos De La Mora, a 28-year-old DACA recipient from Phoenix, also rejected Trump's proposal to extend DACA for three years because it doesn't offer a long-term solution.
"With me as a Dreamer, I couldn’t support a temporary deal," he said.
Trump faces criticism, however, from some groups that have supported his border wall and hard-line stance on immigration, but vehemently oppose any deal that allows any undocumented immigrants to gain legal status, which they call amnesty.
"Think the border crisis is bad now? Wait until after another amnesty. Why is @realDonaldTrump turning a battle over our sovereignty into giving benefits to illegal aliens?" the Federation for American Immigration Reform said in a tweet.