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Mike Pence, Jared Kushner: Immigration deal rests with Democrats

January 21, 2019

Chances for a broader immigration deal in the future rest on Democrats’ ability to negotiate over the border wall and the government shutdown, top White House officials said this weekend.

Vice President Mike Pence and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner said the only way to build trust after more than a decade of false starts on immigration is to have Democrats step up and negotiate after President Trump made a “good faith” offer.

“He wants to do broader immigration reform and I think if we can get through this, I think there is a way toward having a lot of next steps,” Mr. Kushner said.

Mr. Trump for his part teased what the next steps could be, saying “amnesty” for a variety of immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally is looming in the future.

“Amnesty will only be used on a much bigger deal,” he said.

The White House insists the proposal Mr. Trump laid out in a White House speech Saturday granting three years’ legal status to “Dreamers” here under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to hundreds of thousands of migrants who would lose their permission to live in the U.S. once their humanitarian protections run out is not an amnesty because it doesn’t include a pathway to citizenship.

“There is no amnesty in the president’s plan and there is no pathway to citizenship,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House, minutes after Mr. Trump laid out his proposal in an address from the Oval Office.

Conservative critics disagreed and groups that favor stricter immigration limits said the president has it wrong.

“Trading any form of amnesty for a small down payment on the border wall is not only a bad deal, but a betrayal of the trust of the American people,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Activist Ann Coulter was even more pointed: “Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” she tweeted, referring to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of Mr. Trump’s GOP opponents in 2016, who had been a prominent advocate for legalizing immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally.

Mr. Pence replied that the bill would only grant three years of legal status.

“This is not an amnesty bill,” he said.

The White House has asked for the Senate to vote on the bill this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will hold a vote though Democrats are expected to attempt a filibuster.

The White House says if that happens, it will prolong the government shutdown, already in its fifth week, and will ensure federal employees miss a second paycheck.

“If the bill is filibustered Tuesday they will not get paid,” said Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Democrats rejected that equation, saying Mr. Trump could open the government by signing spending bills now and put off his immigration proposal for a later date.

And they said when Congress does tackle immigration, it must be a broader plan that does include full citizenship rights for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Republicans said there’s just not enough trust right now to talk about that sort of deal.

But Mr. Kushner said that trust could be built if Democrats are willing to negotiate on the president’s latest proposal.

“There is a lot that can be done on this topic,” he said.

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