The Trump administration announced Sunday that it wants a list of immigration enforcement measures and other changes tied to any legislation that would benefit young immigrants now protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
The proposals, if adopted, would have wide impact in Southern California given the large number of immigrants living in the state. On the Trump wish list are money for a border wall, thousands more immigration agents, a reduction in legal immigration, and federal funding cuts for cities with so-called “sanctuary" policies, such as Los Angeles.
An administration official told reporters during a press call Sunday that "we would ask that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients. Otherwise, illegal immigration and chain migration will likely increase." Officials said the proposed changes were important to national security.
Last month, President Trump rescinded DACA, which lets about 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors live and work in the country legally. Approximately one-quarter of them live in California.
The program is set to end in March, when DACA recipients' two-year permits will begin to gradually expire and they will lose their protection from deportation.
At the time he rescinded DACA, Trump urged Congress to act on a permanent solution to resolve the residency question for DACA recipients.
Several bills are pending that propose a path to legal status for DACA recipients and other young immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as minors and who are unauthorized. Now, immigrant advocates who have been pushing for legislation to resolve the young immigrants' legal status fear the White House demands may well kill the chances of a legislative fix.
"It basically signals to us that the White House is not serious," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. It is one of several advocacy groups that have been pushing for a "clean" bill for the young immigrants, one not tied to immigration enforcement.
"I just would say at this point, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' This is an absolutely ridiculous set of demands," said Salas of the president's proposals. She said she worries that even if there is a bipartisan compromise in Congress, Trump may veto it if the White House wish list isn't fulfilled.
Others say it's too soon to know how much negotiation room there will be. Politico reported that the White House's sought-after reforms in exchange for a DACA deal were put together by Trump adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner.
Louis DeSipio, University of California, Irvine political scientist, pointed out that Trump himself did initially voice support for DACA recipients, and that there are questions about "how much he gets into the weeds of the details of any specific proposal."
"What you saw yesterday from the White House was a laundry list," DeSipio said. "If it is a starting point for a serious conversation about immigration reform, then that probably is a positive thing. But if it's the White House trying to sort of block a ... legislative solution to DACA, that is unfortunate."
DeSipio said there are areas on which Republicans could negotiate with Democrats, including some details of border security, although not likely a border wall that Democrats oppose.
Chapman University law professor John Eastman believes there's likely to be flexibility on some points. "You negotiate down to somewhere in the middle," Eastman said. "I would expect there are some deal breakers, just as in any big deal."
On the idea of withholding federal grants to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, Eastman said there must be "unambiguously clear" language tying specific grants, such as law enforcement grants, to cooperation with immigration authorities.
Legal challenges have already been filed against some of the Trump proposals. A federal judge in Chicago recently ruled that the federal government exceeded its authority in imposing conditions on public safety grants. Attaching further conditions would require going to Congress, Eastman said.
Eastman criticized Democrats' resistance to border wall funding, citing legislation known as the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which several Democrats supported.
"The border wall was approved by a statute that Congress adopted a decade ago," he said. "It was never fully funded. But it was already authorized."