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UPDATE: Trump Plan Offers Citizenship Path To 1.8 Million Immigrants

On the table: a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people who are in the country illegally as well as $25 billion for a border wall. The Trump administration is also calling for changes to the legal immigration system

A U.S. Border Patrol officer stands near prototypes of President Trump’s proposed border wall in San Diego last November.

In recent weeks, President Trump has told lawmakers he would sign any immigration measure that Congress sent him but also flatly rejected a draft of a deal negotiated by six senators.

Now, the White House is laying out the specific elements it wants to see from a bill offering permanent protection for people in the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

A one-page memo sent to congressional Republicans Thursday afternoon backs a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for not just the roughly 700,000 enrolled in the expiring DACA program but for other “DACA-eligible illegal immigrants” who are in the U.S. illegally and were brought to the country as children. The White House estimates that could cover up to 1.8 million people.

In exchange, the White House wants an immigration measure to include $25 billion for a border wall, though the memo concedes that border security “takes a combination of physical infrastructure, technology, personnel, [and] resources.” In other words, not necessarily the coast-to-coast physical structure on the Southern border that Trump promised at campaign rallies.

The White House also wants changes to the legal immigration system, including policies that prioritize family members “to spouses and minor children only.” And the administration wants to completely eliminate the visa lottery system, which the memo says “is riddled with fraud and abuse and does not serve the national interest.”

The memo mirrors the broad priorities that White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other Trump administration officials have been outlining for weeks. But as President Trump has repeatedly shifted his public statements on any immigration measure, congressional leaders have been increasingly anxious for more clarification on what the White House wants from an eventual bill.

White House Framework on Immigration:

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President Donald Trump is proposing a plan that provides a path to citizenship for 1.8 million of the so-called “Dreamer” immigrants, tighter restrictions on legal immigration and $25 billion in border security, the White House said, putting forward an outline likely to find resistance from some of Trump’s conservative allies.

Senior White House officials offered a preview of Trump’s immigration framework Thursday, casting it as a compromise that could pass the Senate. The proposal represents a reversal for the president, who once promised to eliminate an Obama-era program protecting immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and now in the country illegally. He later urged lawmakers to extend the program, but maintained he was not considering citizenship.

The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program currently covers roughly 690,000 of those younger immigrants, about half the number who qualified for the program according to independent estimates. Trump’s plan would expand this further by adjusting some of the requirements, officials said, but they did not offer specific details. It would not allow parents of those immigrants to seek lawful status, the officials said.

On Wednesday, Trump said he was open to a pathway to citizenship for younger immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. “We’re going to morph into it,” Trump told reporters. “It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.”

Trump ended the DACA program in September, setting a March 5 deadline for Congress to provide legal protections or the program’s recipients would once again be subject to deportation. The officials said Trump would only sign legislation providing those protections if the other immigration changes he is proposing are implemented.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plan before its release.

Trump had previously ruled out the idea of citizenship for the Dreamers, saying in September: “We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”

Trump had deferred to a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to craft an immigration proposal, saying he would sign whatever they passed. But as talks on Capitol Hill broke down — in part because of controversy Trump ginned up using vulgar language to describe other countries — the White House decided to offer its own framework.

The release follows on concerns raised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the president had not sufficiently laid out his priorities. One official said the Thursday release represents a plan for the Senate, with the administration expecting a different bill to pass the House.

Democrats said they were heartened Thursday by Trump’s support, while Republicans were more cautious.

Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he was “very encouraged” by Trump’s surprising words, which the president made late Wednesday in impromptu comments to reporters.

Among Republicans, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said he supports the citizenship pathway Trump described. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., called Trump’s words “positive” and said Trump’s description “gives us a better sense” of his views, but added, “We have a long way to go yet.”

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