President Trump Offers Border Wall And Immigration Compromise, Democrats Reject As ‘Non-Starter’

President Trump speaks about the partial government shutdown, immigration and border security in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House Saturday. CREDIT: Alex Brandon/AP
President Trump speaks about the partial government shutdown, immigration and border security in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House Saturday. CREDIT: Alex Brandon/AP

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BY AYESHA RASCO & DOMENICO MONTANARO, NPR

With negotiations over re-opening the government at a standstill, President Trump offered to back temporary protections for some immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, many of whom are now adults, in exchange for funding for a wall on the southern border.

Trump also offered to extend the Temporary Protected Status program that blocks deportation of certain immigrants fleeing civil unrest or natural disasters.

The proposal had multiple components, including requests for:

  • $800 million for urgent humanitarian assistance;
  • $805 million for drug-detection technology to secure ports of entry;
  • 2,750 additional border agents;
  • 75 new immigration judge teams for a court backlog of nearly 900,000 cases;
  • Allowing Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries;
  • $5.7 billion for strategic deployment of physical barriers or a wall, but not, Trump said, a 2,000-mile concrete structure. The president said he wants to add 230 miles this year and claimed the crime rate and drug problem “would be quickly and greatly reduced” and that “some say it would be cut in half.”

In exchange for:

  • Three years of legislative relief for some 700,000 recipients of the Obama-era initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. The Trump administration had moved to end DACA, but the decision was challenged in court and is currently held up in legal proceedings. Trump’s proposal would give an extension of legal status;
  • A three-year extension of Temporary Protected Status for some 300,000 facing expiration;

The president said these measures would allow three more years of certainty to work on a larger immigration deal.

However, even before he spoke, the deal appeared to be dead on arrival with Democratic leaders. They insisted Trump needs to open the government before beginning any negotiations over border security or barrier funding.

Before the speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, responded to initial reports of the president’s offer by calling it “a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable.” She added that Trump’s proposal does not “represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.”

Some 800,000 federal workers throughout the country have either been furloughed or made to work without pay. Workers have now missed one paycheck and will miss another if the shutdown is not resolved in the next week. Trump has signed legislation to give back pay to federal workers once the government is reopened.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pledged to put Trump’s proposal up for a vote this week.

“Everyone has made their point — now it’s time to make a law,” McConnell said in a statement shortly after the speech. “I intend to move to this legislation this week. With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well. The situation for furloughed employees isn’t getting any brighter and the crisis at the border isn’t improved by show votes. But the president’s plan is a path toward addressing both issues quickly.”

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, praised Trump’s move and put the ball in Democrats’ court.

But not everyone in the conservative base was happy with Trump’s proposal. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter called Trump’s move “amnestying millions of illegals.”

During this longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history, Trump has suffered in the polls. Polls have found more people blame the president than congressional Democrats, and that number is on the rise. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll also found Trump’s approval rating down to 39 percent and slipping with his base.

Coming out Saturday and making this speech was an attempt by the president to reclaim the narrative and appear conciliatory. Democrats indicate the president did not reach out to them before the speech and don’t see what he’s doing, as Pelosi noted, as a good-faith effort at compromise.

Trump’s offer is based, in part, on bipartisan legislation proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., known as the BRIDGE Act. The bill would give three years of protections to the so-called “dreamers” — immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. But before T