By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump proposed Thursday giving up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship in exchange for the elimination of several existing immigration programs and funding for his border wall.
The plan would give recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as what the White House called "DACA-eligible illegal immigrants", a 10-12 year process to achieve citizenship based on their work and education records as well as "good moral character".
It is unclear what would constitute the third criteria, but the White House said the status could be revoked based on criminal conduct, public safety and national security concerns, public charge, or fraud.
Trump ended DACA abruptly last year, plunging hundreds of thousands of people who were shielded from deportation into uncertainty about their future within the U.S. as lawmakers were tasked with determining their fate.
Trump first signaled that he would be open to giving DACA recipients a path to citizenship Thursday during an unannounced press briefing with reporters before departing the U.S. for Davos, Switzerland.
In return, Trump is seeking $25 billion in funding from Congress for his barrier wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which he originally said Mexico would pay for. Mexico expectedly rejected the suggestion outright, but Trump has said he is going to get the funds from Mexico through free trade negotiations.
In addition to the billions Trump is seeking for the wall's construction, he is seeking an additional indeterminate funding boost for new immigration enforcement hires.
He is also looking to end two existing immigration programs, one which allows the extended family of those in the country legally to immigrate legally, and the elimination of the visa lottery.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded the Trump plan, thanking the president for putting it forward.
"This framework builds upon the four pillars for reform that the president has consistently put forth, and indicates what is necessary for the president to sign a bill into law," he said in a statement. "Members on both sides of the aisle will look to this framework for guidance as they work towards an agreement.”
Not all shared McConnell's enthusiasm, however.
Across the aisle, Rep. Luis Gutierrez who has devoted much of his time in Congress to immigration reform, slammed the proposal, saying on Twitter "It would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America".
"Both a wall and the statue would be equally offensive and equally ineffective and both would express Trump’s deeply held suspicion of Latinos," he added.