WASHINGTON –– The Trump administration, under court order, said it would resume taking applications to renew temporary protections from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, as the standoff between the president and Congress over the program’s future intensified on Sunday.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Saturday that it will accept renewal applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It will not accept applications from people who have not previously received permits. The agency was forced to act after a federal judge in San Francisco Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration’s plan to end the DACA program, which was started by President Barack Obama.
The decision, and continued furor over reports that President Donald Trump questioned why the country has to accept immigrants from certain “shithole” countries, adds to doubts whether he and Congress can agree this week on a bill to fund the government before current funding expires Friday. Democrats and some Republicans insist that the bill include language protecting DACA beneficiaries from deportation.
Trump has said for months that he wants a DACA compromise, but Sunday he said on Twitter: “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.”
California Attorney General. Xavier Becerra, who brought one of the lawsuits against the administration on DACA, disputed Trump’s assertion and urged Democrats not to accept any deals that add “bad stuff” related to border security. Among other things, Trump wants money for a southern border wall.
“I will tell my Democratic friends the following: DACA is actually now alive and the Homeland Security Department is now accepting renewal applications, so it’s nowhere near dead,” Becerra said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I would hope they would not agree to any bad deals on immigration, taking really bad stuff that has nothing to do with helping our borders in order to get a DACA deal,” he said. “That DACA deal should stand on its own.”
While Trump has attacked the judge’s order on Twitter, his administration has not yet appealed the decision but is expected to do so. Immigration advocates urged DACA beneficiaries to seek renewals quickly.
“The Trump administration stated that it plans to ‘vigorously’ challenge the district court’s decision. This means that the window of time available for sending in your DACA renewal is uncertain,” the National Immigration Law Center said in a release over social media, urging those eligible “to apply immediately.”
About 800,000 young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children have been allowed to live, work and go to school legally in the U.S. under the DACA program, and to serve in the military. Nearly a third of beneficiaries are estimated to live in California.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in September that the administration would wind down the program as of March 5. The administration ended renewals for two-year permits in October. An estimated 144 people daily lose their deportation relief.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ordered the administration to resume accepting renewal applications. On Friday, he said pro-DACA plaintiffs in the several lawsuits he is handling can proceed with their legal claims that the administration’s order to end the program stemmed from what he called “racial animus towards Mexicans and Latinos,” as reflected in Trump’s remarks during the 2016 campaign.
That second ruling came during a furor over the latest Trump remarks against immigration, after reports that the president, in a bipartisan meeting on Thursday at the White House, questioned why the United States should have to accept immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador or the “shithole” countries of Africa. The reports ignited a new round of accusations of racism against the president.
On Sunday, two Republicans senators denied for the first time a Democratic colleague’s contention about Trump’s language during the Oval Office meeting.
Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, two of seven lawmakers in the meeting, issued a statement Friday saying they did “not recall” Trump using the term. Both now dispute the account of the only Democrat in the meeting, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., that Trump definitely made the remark. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., implicitly affirmed Durbin’s account. At the meeting, Durbin and Graham outlined their compromise immigration idea, which reportedly provoked Trump’s comment.
“I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was,” Cotton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation/.”
Cotton went so far as to suggest that Durbin has been untruthful before.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Perdue told host George Stephanopoulos, “I’m telling you he did not use that word, George, and I’m telling you it is a gross misrepresentation.”
Speaking on the same show after Perdue’s denial, Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who wasn’t at the White House meeting but spoke immediately after to Durbin and Graham, said, “I was in a meeting directly afterwards where those who had presented to the president our proposal spoke about the meeting, and they said those words were used, before those words went public.”
The White House has not explicitly denied the reports. Trump said on Twitter last week that his words were “tough, but this was not the language used.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said people shouldn’t draw conclusions that Trump is racist.
“It’s unfair then to sort of all of a sudden paint him, ‘Oh well, he’s a racist,’ when I know for a fact that he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti, because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti,” said Paul, an ophthalmologist.
For all the debate, lawmakers in both parties are frustrated by the controversy Trump repeatedly has sparked as they head into a week under threat of a government shutdown.
Congress will continue wrangling over DACA because Republicans, though they control the House and Senate, need Democrats’ votes to pass the government-spending bill given the number of Republicans who reflexively oppose any spending measures.
Roused by Trump’s statements, more Democrats are saying they will not back a spending bill without protection for DACA beneficiaries. Yet through the weekend, Trump has inferred on Twitter that the conversation is over and Democrats are to blame.
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