Donald Trump open to citizenship for ‘Dreamers’ in 10-12 years

The term Dreamers, used for undocumented immigrants living in the US illegally, came from the DREAM Act that was proposed in 2001 to provide citizenship to them under certain conditions.

world Updated: Jan 25, 2018 20:24 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Dreamers,Donald Trump,undocumented immigrants
Demonstrators rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) outside the Capitol in Washington. Democrats have been seeking a deal to protect the "Dreamers," who have been shielded against deportation by DACA, which President Donald Trump halted last year.(AP)

President Donald Trump has said he is open to granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children over a period of “10 to 12 years”, displaying new flexibility on an issue at the heart of ongoing negotiations on immigration reform.

“We’re going to morph into it,” Trump said at an impromptu news conference on Wednesday shorty before leaving for Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum.

“It’s going to happen— over a period of 10 to 12 years. If somebody’s done a great job and worked hard, it keeps the incentive to do a great job. ... I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive, after a period of years, of being able to become a citizen,” he said.

But it will not be without strings, the president indicated. It will be contingent upon Congress approving funds for building a wall along the country’s border with Mexico and boosting border security.

Trump is seeking $20 billion to build the wall and another $5 billion for other border security measures. He said there can be no deal on DACA without funding for the wall.

“If you don’t have a wall, you don’t have DACA,” Trump said, reiterating his intent to end the chain migration and diversity visa programme. “We’re talking about probably 800 miles (about 1,287 km) of wall. That wall is the best return on investment,” he said, adding that this will save hundreds and billions of dollars.

The so-called ‘Dreamers,’ an estimated 700,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children — including nearly 8,000 from India — face deportation in March according to Trump’s orders last September. That’s when their Obama-era protection, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), expires, unless US Congress reinstates it through a legislation, as favoured by both the President and Republicans who control both the House of Representatives and Senate.

Failure to reach an agreement led to a brief and partial shutdown of the federal government over the past weekend as Democrats blocked a short-term spending bill, demanding a deal for DACA.

They won a promise instead of a shot at it before February 8 when the spending bill will come up for renewal, failing which Republicans leaders have said they would allow a legislation to come for a vote in the Senate.

The term Dreamers, which is used for the undocumented immigrants living in the US illegally, came from the DREAM Act, a bipartisan legislation that was first proposed in 2001 to provide citizenship to them under certain conditions. The bill was never passed.

After Trump made his comments, a senior administration official said no final decision has been taken yet on DACA.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House said it would roll out its immigration framework on Monday, which would be based on four agreed-upon pillars of securing the border and closing legal loopholes, ending extended-family chain migration, cancelling the visa lottery and providing a permanent solution on DACA.

Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer has ruled out any funding for the border wall.

“It’s off the table,” he has said.

Trump’s remarks about a path to citizenship for younger undocumented illegal immigrants was immediately welcomed by a top Senator involved in the immigration negotiations.

“I truly appreciate President Trump making it clear that he supports a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. This will greatly help the Senate efforts to craft a proposal which President Trump can sign into law,” said Senator Lindsay Graham. (With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 17:19 IST