Trump’s radical new immigration proposal, explained

Immigrant advocates call the plan "dead on arrival."

CREDIT: Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images
CREDIT: Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Details of the Trump administration’s immigration policy “framework” emerged Thursday, and while one Republican senator gave the White House credit for providing a “generous” pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers, the details reveal an extreme proposal that many in the immigrant advocacy community are condemning as xenophobic and dead on arrival.

What wasn’t emblazoned in the headlines is that the framework calls for $25 billion in border security funding used to enforce restrictive immigration measures that would cleave away large parts of the legal immigration system and potentially lead to mass deportation, plus substantial funding for the border wall and the hiring of more Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials involved in the deportation process.

In short, the framework — a win for Trump who promised to build a border wall — will ultimately fail both Democrats and Republicans in the long run. Here’s what you need to know about the new proposal.

Border security

The plan calls for a $25 billion trust fund, which includes money for a physical barrier and increased security enhancements along the perimeter of the United States. Beyond a border wall, the money would fund increased border agent presence in cities that are 100 miles beyond the physical international boundary lines between the United States and its contiguous neighbors. These federal immigration agents have the ability to question people about immigration status within these interior zones and detain them for deportation proceedings.


The plan also includes funding to hire new DHS officials such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement professionals. The immigration court system is truly in desperate need of more immigration judges as they face greater job burnout than prison wardens and doctors. Yet funding for the other positions listed on the framework would mean more officials to prosecute and deport immigrants since immigrants aren’t granted attorneys for civil immigration proceedings.

The White House framework includes the detention and removal of “criminal aliens, gang members, violent offenders, and aggravated felons.” In Trump’s first year, immigration attorneys have noticed a startling trend in courtrooms: their clients are increasingly being accused of gang affiliation and then put into deportation proceedings. Advocates say federal agents have used Operation Matador, a federal operation which targets gang members and their associates, as a pretext to arrest immigrants, which makes it difficult for immigrants to prove their innocence.

DACA legalization

The framework gives 1.8 million individuals known as DREAMers — people who came to the country as children — the chance to normalize their status and become U.S. citizens in 10 to 12 years. As a warning, the plan cautioned that the status could be “subject to revocation for criminal conduct or public safety and national security concerns, public charge, fraud, etc.”

This warning comes against the backdrop of two federal immigration agencies — ICE and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection — that terrorize DREAMers in southern U.S. towns and casts them as gang members. In one instance, federal immigration agents accused a DREAMer covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, for having gang connections last year. It took a judge to clear his name. That Obama-era program grants temporary deportation relief and work authorization.

Protect the nuclear family

This part of the White House framework focuses on ending extended-family chain migration, or more commonly known as a family unification process that allows people who already live in the United States to sponsor visas for their relatives. As Asian immigrants can attest, sponsoring for extended family members isn’t an immediate process. In fact, it takes roughly 23 years for a U.S. citizen to sponsor their Filipino sibling.

Eliminate lottery and repurpose visas

While the framework claims that the diversity visa lottery program is “riddled with fraud and abuse,” it would eliminate a much-needed legal immigration program that increases representation of people from countries that do not send many people to the United States. The program annually awards 55,000 visas and mostly benefits Africans and Eastern Europeans. The diversity lottery has long been a program that helps workers without college education to enter the country.


“We have to carefully contextualize, as in some countries it takes a lot of ambitions and a lot of investment to get even a high school diploma,” Deborah Weissman, professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told U.S. News. “Also, there are a lot of people who migrate and who get into the workforce and whose skills are not acknowledged as being particularly proficient but they are.”

“For instance, people who do construction work learn on the job and they learn differently than U.S. workers learn, and there aren’t mechanisms by which those skills could be measured,” Weissman added.

Bottom line 

It’s likely that if Democrats do not accept the offer, Republicans will use the opportunity to blame their political opponents whenever a DREAMer gets deported because her DACA status expires. But it’s also just as likely that if Democrats accept the offer, the Trump administration would do nothing about the greater undocumented population, many of whom are parents of these DREAMers. In short, the bill effectively forces DREAMers to watch as newly hired immigration agents arrest and deport their undocumented relatives.

To be clear, this is a proposal that House Republicans don’t like because they know it can face consequences down the road. Assuming this plan becomes law and it takes 12 years for naturalization, DREAMers will gain the right to vote in 2030.