In an interview with the Associated Press, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said that President Donald Trump’s planned wall along the U.S. border with Mexico is “first and foremost” before any deal for amnesty for the recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The AP reported after interviewing Nielsen:
The secretary said she was hopeful the White House and Congress can reach a deal that includes border and immigration enforcement measures. She said building a wall along the Mexico border was ‘first and foremost,’ and the administration wanted to end ‘loopholes’ on issues that include handling asylum claims and local police working with immigration authorities.
While the AP put a headline and lede on its piece that focused on what Trump is willing to do with so-called DREAMers who are recipients of the illegally granted DACA temporary executive amnesty that Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama unlawfully bestowed upon several hundred thousand illegal aliens, the interview focused more on Trump’s efforts for a border wall.
“Nielsen, who visited prototypes of Trump’s proposed border wall in San Diego, said the president would request $1.6 billion next year for the barrier, in addition to $1.6 billion he is seeking this year to build or replace 74 miles (118 kilometers) in California and Texas,” the AP wrote.
That $3.2 billion is not enough for the full wall—which is estimated at over $20 billion in cost in total—but Nielsen said it would be a “down payment” to get the wall started.
“It’s all a down payment,” she said. “This is not going to get us the whole wall we need but it’s a start.”
Nielsen also said any DACA deal would focus only on the recipients of the unlawful DACA program, not generally on so-called DREAMers.
“Nielsen said she believed any permanent protection for DACA recipients should be limited to the hundreds of thousands who qualified during the three years it was in effect, not anyone who would meet the criteria if it were still in place. She said it should include permission to work,” the AP reported.
The headline and lede of the AP article, however, centered on whether any legislative DACA deal would contain citizenship—not just legal status—for the recipients. The AP wrote:
The Trump administration would consider immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people, the U.S. Homeland Security secretary said Tuesday, while emphasizing no decision on that issue has been made and a border wall remains the priority. Congress is considering three options, including citizenship or permanent legal status for people who were temporarily shielded from deportation, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview. Details on qualifying for citizenship, including on how many years to wait and other requirements, would have to be addressed.
But Nielsen did not say, when asked if President Trump would back citizenship for the DACA recipients via a legislative deal, if the president supports that.
“I think he’s open to hearing about the different possibilities and what it means but, to my knowledge, there certainly hasn’t been any decision from the White House,” Nielsen said.
This month, Democrats are angling to push through some kind of a legislative DACA deal attached to the government funding bill that runs out on Jan. 19. The Democrats in Congress hope to use the leverage they have in the funding fight for some kind of DACA deal, something that is setting an existential battle for the soul of President Trump’s presidency. It remains to be seen how that will shake out.