President Donald Trump’s latest immigration proposal, which would give thousands of young undocumented immigrants in the state an eventual path to citizenship, landed with a thud among congressional Democrats, including those from Connecticut.
“President Trump’s so-called immigration framework is a total non-starter,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “It uses Connecticut dreamers as a bargaining chip to build a wall and rip thousands of families apart.”
The fate of about 700,000 “dreamers,” or young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as infants or young children by their parents, has been in limbo since Trump ended an Obama-era program known as Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in September.
The DACA program gave eligible youth temporary legal status and a work permit, but applicants were required to reapply every two years. Trump wanted Congress to provide a legislative solution for these youths.
But Congress has not been able to pass a bill that would protect dreamers from deportation for over a decade. The impasse led to the recent three-day shutdown of the federal government.
Late Thursday, the Trump administration released a “framework” that would protect dreamers and more than double the number of youths that would be given legal status – and, for the first time, a path to citizenship, although the process could take up to 12 years.
But the dreamer deal came with strings attached.
While it would offer a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million young immigrants, Trump’s proposal also called for spending $25 billion on a border wall and other immigration security measures.
Trump’s plan also would sharply restrict family-based immigration, allowing U.S. citizens and residents to petition for immigrant visas for spouses and minor children. Currently petitions can be made for parents, siblings and older children as well.
The framework also calls for elimination of a visa lottery system run by the State Department that makes available 50,000 immigrant visas each year. The lottery aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States, by selecting applicants from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the previous five years. About 20 million people apply for the lottery each year.
At a press conference in Hartford on Friday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the price for giving dreamers a long and difficult path to citizenship is too high.
“This proposal is in effect immigration hostage taking,” Blumenthal said. “It is repulsive and repugnant. It would in effect take hostage 800,000 dreamers for draconian, cruel policies that restrict immigration so drastically that the clock would be rolled back to the 1920s.”
Blumenthal also called the immigration framework “the far right wing’s dream come true.”
While Trump urged the Senate to take up his proposal quickly, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., quickly rejected the plan.
“This plan flies in the face of what most Americans believe,” Schumer said on Twitter. While Trump “finally acknowledged that the Dreamers should be allowed to stay here and become citizens, he uses them as a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hard-liners have advocated for years.”
Trump responded with his own tweet.
“DACA has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!” the president said.
Trump, and the House GOP, have rejected a bipartisan plan in the Senate known as the DREAM Act that would give dreamers conditional residency and, after six years, permanent residency and a chance to apply for citizenship.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, was among the Democrats calling for bipartisan negotiations over the DREAM Act, which could result in additional border security measures to attract GOP support.
“The White House and Congress must hold serious negotiations on comprehensive immigration reform that protects dreamers and secures our border,” she said. “Thus far, the White House and House Republicans do not seem willing to do that.”
Murphy said, “It looks like President Trump has no intention of actually working on a bipartisan deal that protects dreamers and makes sensible changes to our immigration laws.”
“He’s trying to turn our nation against immigrants – preying on the worst kind of prejudice and ignoring the fact that immigration boosts our economy and grows jobs,” Murphy said in a statement.
Connecticut dreamers also blasted the plan.
“This proposal is nothing more than a white supremacist ransom note,” said Lucas Codognolla, a dreamer and executive director of Connecticut Students for a Dream.
“I will not trade my safety for the safety of my parents and my immigrant community,” Codognolla said. “Because my safety means nothing if my family and my community must live in fear. We will not be used as bargaining chips for hate.”
Codognolla also said that since Trump ended the program in September, 11,000 DACA recipients have already their protection from deportation and their work permits “and along with it, their work authorizations, jobs, safety, piece of mind, and ability to support their families.”