The 4 Most Shocking Proposals in the White House Immigration Plan

Trump’s proposed DACA deal attacks bedrock principles of the immigration system.

The White House dropped a one-page summary of its DACA deal proposal on Thursday night. In its starting bid, the White House has offered to put 1.8 million undocumented young people on a decade-long path to legalization. That’s a dramatic expansion, considering that just 700,000 young people are enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a short-term deportation deferral program for young undocumented immigrants. The proposed plan would allow all those who were eligible, even if they did not apply for the program, to achieve legal status if they clear education, work, and criminal-background requirements.

The White House has described the plan as “extremely generous,” but DACA is where the generosity ends. From there, the plan, which the White House also called “non-negotiable,” The New York Times reported, goes much further than just sorting out how to protect undocumented young people. It also calls for a massive rewrite of the US immigration system, slashing the primary avenues for legal immigration, promising a ratcheting up of deportation mechanisms against undocumented immigrants, and pledging tens of billions of dollars for more border enforcement.

In a way, there is little surprise: Over a year ago Trump backed the RAISE Act, authored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), which outlined very similar reductions to the legal immigration system. In his televised bipartisan meeting just weeks ago, the gathered members of Congress seemed to agree that any potential plan would take up the very issues that the White House has decided to reexamine. But these policy directions attack bedrock principles of the US immigration system stretching back not just 50 years, to the last rewrite of the immigration system, but to the very start of immigration policy–making in this country.

Many high-profile Dreamers, as DACA beneficiaries are often called, have already slammed the plan. “Let’s call this proposal for what it is: a white-supremacist ransom note,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director with the national immigrant-youth network United We Dream. Undocumented youth who stand to benefit will not accept this deal, she said. “They have taken immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, black immigrants, and our communities in exchange for our dignity.”

Still, the plan forms what the White House hopes will be the starting point for negotiations going forward. Here now are four of the most troubling and extreme policy proposals in the White House plan:

1) Drastically cuts family immigration, the top driver of legal immigration into the United States

When it comes to the legal immigration system, there are, with very small exceptions, two ways to immigrate to this country: You either need to be the family member of a citizen or legal permanent resident, or you need to be well-educated and highly skilled enough to qualify for an employment visa.

Under the White House plan, citizens and legal permanent residents would only be able to sponsor their children under the age of 18 or spouses. Family reunification is such a crucial part of the immigration system that some expect this move would reduce the numbers of people who enter the country by half.

Currently, a citizen may sponsor their spouse, unmarried minor kids, adult children, parents, and siblings. Legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses, minor kids, and adult children. But within these categories there are preferences, and while the United States caps the numbers of family visas it hands out every year at roughly a quarter of a million, there are some high-preference categories that are not subject to these caps, so every year half a million green cards are handed out just on the basis of family ties alone.

This plan would slash these categories dramatically so that citizens and legal permanent residents would only be able to sponsor their spouses and minor children.

The laws governing the current system have been in place for the last half century, but the rights of people to sponsor their adult children stretch back far before the Hart-Celler Act of 1965, which created this immigration system to give preference to people’s close family relationships.

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Julianne Hing