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By Will Racke
The Trump administration is not likely to throw its support behind a Senate plan to revive an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, administration officials said Wednesday.
A White house official told McClatchy that President Donald Trump would not sign an updated version of the Dream Act, a bipartisan proposal to codify the legal status of people currently eligible for protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“It’s enforcement first. Then we can get to all these other things,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin Of Illinois are set to introduce Thursday the 2017 DREAM Act, which would give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they came to the U.S. as children. Various versions of a bill to grant amnesty to such illegal immigrants — commonly known as “Dreamers” — have been proposed going back to former President George W. Bush’s first term, but Congress has never been able to work out a compromise.
The new Dream Act proposal comes as the DACA program’s future looks increasingly uncertain. In late June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with counterparts from nine other states, threatened to sue the Trump administration unless it rescinds DACA by Sept. 5.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly subsequently told Congress that the administration won’t commit to defending DACA in court, based on guidance from department lawyers that the program is unlikely to survive a legal challenge from the states. (RELATED: Will Sessions’s DOJ Defend DACA? He Previously Doubted Its Constitutionality)
“Most of them felt that DACA, as it exists, is not legally sustainable,” DHS spokesman David Lapan said earlier in July.
Trump has sent mixed signals on his intentions for DACA recipients. During the campaign, he trashed DACA as an illegal executive amnesty by President Barack Obama, but he has muted that criticism since taking office.
DHS granted an extension of DACA in June, and Trump suggested mid-July that he would be open to an immigration reform bill that includes some kind of permanent legal status for Dreamers.
“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One. “I really understand the situation now. I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan.”
The president added, however, that “our country and political forces are not ready” for such reform. For now, the administration appears to be content with a piecemeal approach to immigration policy, backing a pair of enforcement bills and a Republican proposal to reduce legal immigration levels.
“The administration has opposed the Dream Act and we are likely to be consistent in that,” Marc Short, the White House legislative director, said Wednesday.