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The White House's Immigration Plan


And now to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are looking over a new immigration proposal. The White House released the plan late last week that includes a path to citizenship for so-called DREAMers and limits on legal immigration, as well as funding for what it calls a border wall system. But if the goal was to put something in this deal for everyone to love, it's also giving people on all sides of the debate something to hate, too. NPR's congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is closely following the immigration debate. And he joins us now. Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So President Trump will have an opportunity to make a big pitch for his immigration plan when he delivers the State of the Union address on Tuesday. What are we expecting to hear? I'm assuming not American carnage.

DETROW: That's right. The White House is framing this as a bipartisan speech, a salesmanship speech. Expect him to talk about what he wants to see in an immigration bill - $25 billion for the wall and border security. And a lot of changes to legal immigration in exchange for a path to citizenship for people in DACA and people eligible for DACA - about 1.8 million people altogether. So the White House is saying President Trump, in addition, is going to be a lot of - doing a lot of selling, making the argument the economy is doing really well. And he's playing a big role in that.

Of course, the framing that this is going to be a bipartisan speech assumes that there will be messaged discipline, that President Trump will stick to the script. And I'll just say that this morning, he's arguing the economy is doing well by getting into a Twitter argument with Jay Z.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. The plan does have money to build a wall system - this immigration plan. And that's an important term because it's not just a wall - and many other elements of border security and immigration enforcement. That was expected to be the tough part for Democrats to swallow. But instead, the Democrats seem to be focusing on the limits of legal migration.

DETROW: Yeah. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently said this week that funding for the wall is off the table as far as Democrats are concerned. But all along, Democrats have said they're happy to trade more money for border security for protections for people in DACA. There's two reasons why Democrats are upset about these legal immigration changes. First of all, they feel like they're being asked to give up a lot in exchange for not that much compared to more broad bipartisan immigration bills from previous years that talked about a path to citizenship for millions and millions of people as opposed to the relatively small pool of people in DACA. They feel like this is an unfair trade compared to what they could get out of it.

Secondly, I think Democrats are just increasingly suspicious of White House motivations on this issue in particular. They - like, all the rhetoric coming from President Trump, from aids like Stephen Miller. And they say, we just don't trust your motivations here. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, who's usually very respectful of the presidency, put out a statement saying these latest plans from the White House are part of their plan to make America white again. And I think that says a lot.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's look at the Republican response. The president is proposing, as we mentioned, a path to citizenship, not just legal status for the immigrants known as DREAMers. It seems like a lot of Republicans think this is a bridge too far.

DETROW: Yeah, especially in the House. A lot of conservative Republicans in the House just don't want to see any path to citizenship for anyone who's in the country illegally. I think a lot of that depends on the State of the Union because this is something that House Republicans feel firmly about. But in the past, on many issues, they've proven to move when President Trump says something's important to him.

They've been happy to defer to the president, who they like and who's very popular with their base. So if President Trump goes and makes a hard sales pitch for this specific plan the White House is backing, maybe you could see some softening on that. Otherwise, they could really disrupt any deal that comes through the Senate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just briefly, Feb. 8 is less than two weeks away. I can't even believe that.

DETROW: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the deadline for Congress to come together on this immigration deal and avoid another government shutdown. What's the plan?

DETROW: I think the plan - Congress loves a deadline. I think that it's realistic to expect the hard negotiating not to happen until much closer to Feb. 8 or maybe even beyond it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. NPR's congressional correspondent Scott Detrow, thanks for being here.

DETROW: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.