U.S. President Donald Trump proposed an immigration deal on Saturday in a bid to end a 29-day partial government shutdown.
But House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats rejected the plan.
Trump stuck to his demand that $5.7 billion for this year to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall be part of any bill to fully reopen the government, an ultimatum Democrats oppose. But the president had hoped that offering new protections for some undocumented immigrants could end a month long impasse with Congress.
In a speech from the White House, Trump offered to extend support for legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” as well as holders of temporary protected status (TPS).
His bargain, announced in a televised White House address, held out the carrot of protection from deportation for two categories of immigrants.
These include 700,000 so-called “Dreamers,” children of people who settled illegally in the United States, and who have become a favorite cause of the Democrats, as well as 300,000 other immigrants whose protected status is expiring, Trump said.
The president said these concessions would “build the trust and goodwill necessary to begin real immigration reform.”
In return, Trump demanded the $5.7 billion he says is needed to extend fences on the border with Mexico, something the opposition Democrats have repeatedly refused to authorize. That has prompted the president to retaliate with the government shutdown, which he triggered by not signing off on funding to swaths of departments.
The president also called for $800 million in “urgent humanitarian assistance” and $805 million for drug detection technology to help secure US ports of entry.
“I’m here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border,” Trump said in his address.
Describing a U.S. immigration system that he called “badly broken,” Trump said, “I am here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis along the southern border.”
He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would seek quick passage of his proposal.
Shortly before he spoke, Pelosi, the top U.S. Democrat, in a statement said the offer was “unacceptable” and did not “represent a good-faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.” She said the president’s offer was unlikely to gain the votes needed to pass the House or Senate.
About one-quarter of U.S. government programs have been partially shut down due to a lack of funding as the president has held out for the $5.7 billion he wants just for this year to build a wall on the southwestern U.S. border to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs.
That partial shutdown has meant that 800,000 federal workers were either furloughed or working without pay since Dec. 22.
Earlier on Saturday, Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said he could not support such an offer. “First, President Trump and Senate majority leader McConnell must open the government today,” Durbin said in a statement.
“Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate. Third, I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues,” Durbin said.
*Reuters and AFP