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The Trump administration has released a list of immigration demands it wants in exchange for an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That's the program known as DACA that shields from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. The administration will begin phasing out the program in March unless Congress acts. As NPR's Geoff Bennett reports, Trump's new list seems to conflict with the tentative deal that he made with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: President Trump's apparent DACA deal with top congressional Democrats appears to be derailing. Trump last month reached an agreement in principle with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that would protect hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who were also known as DREAMers. Trump in return would get funding for some border security measures, just not his long-promised Southern border wall. Here's the president speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One at the time, casually referring to the Democratic leaders by their first names.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I. And I said, if we can get something to happen, we're going to sign it, and we're going to make it. And we're going to make a lot of happy people.
BENNETT: That was then. Sunday night, the Trump administration unveiled and sent to Congress a long list of demands it wants in exchange for a legislative fix for the DACA program. During a conference call with reporters, White House Legislative Director Marc Short explained the administration's priorities.
MARC SHORT: These priorities are essential to mitigate the legal and economic consequences of any grant of status to DACA recipients. They fulfill the president's promise to advance immigration reform that puts the need of American workers first.
BENNETT: The priorities include curbing funding for so-called sanctuary cities, cracking down on unaccompanied minors from Central America, hiring thousands more immigration enforcement officers and attorneys, limiting family-based legal immigration to spouses and children, not extended family members and, notably, funding and completing the Southern border wall.
Schumer and Pelosi quickly denounced the proposal, writing in a joint statement, quote, "we told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable." The DREAM Act is the Democrats' preferred DACA fix. The statement continues, quote, "if the president was serious about protecting the DREAMers, his staff has not made a good-faith effort to do so."
Sources familiar with the administration's thinking say Trump's new immigration wish list reflects the influence of top White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, Miller known for his nationalist views and hardline immigration approach.
FRANK SHARRY: Let's be clear. Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, the anti-immigrant activists on the outside - they want to try to load up any negotiation with poison pills in hopes of killing a deal.
BENNETT: That's Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America's Voice. Sharry says Democrats still have leverage in the DACA debate since the White House will need Democrats' votes in support of the end-of-year spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.
SHARRY: If the Trump administration doesn't want to get blamed for a government shutdown, they're going to have to include the DREAM Act in the end-of-the-year spending package in order to get enough votes to keep things moving forward.
BENNETT: The White House says it's making a good-faith effort at reaching a bipartisan solution to the DACA dilemma. It's not clear which, if any, of the new immigration principles the president considers to be non-negotiable. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.