WASHINGTON — In a bid to break the shutdown impasse and fund his long-promised border wall, President Donald Trump on Saturday offered to extend temporary protection for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But while Trump cast the move as a "common-sense compromise," Democrats were quick to dismiss it at a "non-starter."
Trump declared from the White House that "both sides in Washington must simply come together," adding that he was there "to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border."
Hoping to put pressure on Democrats, the White House billed the announcement as a major step forward. But Trump did not budge on his $5.7 billion demand for the wall and, in essence, offered to temporarily roll-back some of his own hawkish immigration actions — actions that have been blocked by federal courts.
Democrats dismissed Trump's proposal even before his formal remarks. Reacting to the anticipated announcement earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the proposal was "a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable." The California Democrat said Trump's expected offer was "not a good-faith effort" to help the immigrants and could not pass the House. She again called on Trump to reopen the government, shut for a record 29 days.
Democrats made their own move late Friday to break the impasse when they pledged to provide hundreds of millions of dollars more for border security.
Partisan clashes between Trump and Pelosi marked the fourth week of the shutdown. It was not clear if the fresh offers would lead to serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or if they were just acts of political posturing. The maneuvering came as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without paychecks, with many enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.
Seeking to cast the plan as a bipartisan way forward, Trump said Saturday he had support from "rank-and-file" Democrats, as top Democrats made clear they had not been consulted. He also said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the legislation to a vote this week, though Democrats appeared likely to block it. McConnell had previously stated that no vote should be held in the Senate until Trump and Democrats agreed on a bill.
Trump's remarks from the Diplomatic Room marked the second time he has addressed the nation as the partial shutdown drags on. On this occasion, he sought to strike a diplomatic tone, emphasizing trust and the need to work across the aisle. But he still maintained that a border barrier was needed to block what he describes as the flow of drugs and crime into the country, though he described it as a "steel barriers in high-priority locations."
To ensure wall funding, Trump said he would extend protections for young people brought to the country illegally as children, known as "Dreamers," as well as for those with temporary protected status after fleeing countries affected by natural disasters or violence.
Administration officials said the protections would apply only to those currently in the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, and the temporary protected status would apply to those who currently have it and have been in the U.S. since 2011. That means people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti — countries that saw the status revoked since Trump took office — would get a reprieve.
Democrats criticized Trump's proposal because it didn't seem to be a permanent solution for those immigrants and because it includes money for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which the party strongly opposes. Democrats also want Trump to reopen government before talks can start.
Trump's son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, has led the work on the proposals, said three people familiar with White House thinking who were not authorized to speak publicly. Some said Vice President Mike Pence and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were involved, too.