WORLD
23/01/2019 4:14 AM AEDT | Updated 23/01/2019 7:28 AM AEDT

Trump's 'Compromise' Immigration Offer To Democrats Includes Major Changes Restricting Asylum Law

The proposal would gut asylum laws for Central American minors — which critics are calling a poison pill.

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump’s offer to Democrats over the weekend seeking to trade temporary protections for some immigrants in exchange for funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border received positive coverage from some outlets, including being called a “compromise” and a move by Trump “toward the center.”

But the latest details in the proposal, which Senate Republicans unveiled Monday in a bill they plan to vote on this week, make the offer appear less of a compromise and more of a wish list for immigration hard-liners like White House adviser Stephen Miller.

Trump is offering a three-year extension for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids. The offer would also give a three-year extension to 300,000 people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras who are living in the U.S. under the temporary protected status program.

Democrats rejected the offer before Trump even announced it on Saturday, however, maintaining that it didn’t go nearly far enough and that the president ought to reopen the government before any negotiations over the border proceed. 

But the GOP bill incorporating his offer would also gut existing asylum laws for children and trafficking victims from Central America, ban asylum for minors who present themselves at ports of entry, gut the concept of temporary protected status for future cases and expand immigration detention ― all measures making it more likely to be dead on arrival in the Senate.

“Given the poison pills stuffed into a proposal that was supposed to entice Democrats we can now say the Trump ‘offer’ isn’t about getting to a deal but about shifting blame. So obvious. So predictable. So pathetic,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, tweeted on Tuesday.

The bill would ban asylum for Central American minors, including those who arrive at the border with their parents, unless the minors apply for asylum in their home country. It would also cap the number of Central American minors who are allowed to apply for asylum each year at 50,000 and limit the number of asylum applications that could be granted per year to 15,000. 

The administration has for months tried to reduce the number of people seeking asylum in the U.S. as part of a broader effort to stem the flow of Central American migrants crossing the border from Mexico. Trump’s administrative attempts to curtail the asylum process have faced legal challenges in two federal courts, however, prompting this week’s legislative fix.

“This bill includes the most extreme changes on asylum that I’ve ever seen,” Kerri Talbot, the director of federal advocacy at the group Immigration Hub, said on a press call on Tuesday.

Under the GOP bill, minors who apply for asylum would face much stiffer consequences for filing an application found to be frivolous ― including permanent ineligibility for future protections.

The bill’s changes to asylum law alarmed immigration activists online, as well some on the right, including attorney and conservative writer Gabriel Malor.

Trump’s efforts to win over Democratic support on the bill ― which will require at least 60 votes to pass in the Senate ― hit even more trouble on Tuesday after the Supreme Court once again did not act on the administration’s effort to end DACA. The move essentially left protections for Dreamers in place for at least the next several months ― giving Democrats less incentive to agree to Trump’s offer of protections to DACA recipients.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly included Sudan among the countries for which immigrants’ temporary protected status would be extended.