Donald Trump told the Spanish language channel’s news anchor that he was going to sign an executive order that would grant DACA recipients a path to citizenship.
It’s not clear from the president’s words whether the path to citizenship will be in the executive order on immigration or whether he will ask Congress to pass legislation.
In an interview with Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart, Trump blamed Democrats from walking away from a deal on DACA and said the Supreme Court’s decision last month blocking his administration’s plan to end the Obama-era program gave him “tremendous power.”
“The deal was done. DACA is going to be just fine. We’re putting it in. It’s going to be just fine. And I am going to be, over the next few weeks, signing an immigration bill that a lot of people don’t know about. You have breaking news, but I’m signing a big immigration bill,” Trump told Díaz-Balart.
Is that an executive order, asked the anchor?
“I’m going to do a big executive order. I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it,” Trump responded. “But, we put it in, and we’ll probably going to then be taking it out. We’re working out the legal complexities right now, but I’m going to be signing a very major immigration bill as an executive order, which Supreme Court now, because of the DACA decision, has given me the power to do that.”
The court ruled that Trump had the authority to rescind the Obama era rule that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but was unable to do because of procedural problems with the way the administration tried to accomplish it. Trump believes that if he can rescind the Obama era rule on immigration then he can create one as well.
Legal experts aren’t so sure, but it’s clear that Trump wants another bite at the legislative apple and will work with Congress to get something on immigration passed.
Not surprisingly, conservatives were outraged. “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned on Twitter that it would be “a HUGE mistake” if Trump were to create path citizenship via executive order.” Cruz was an opponent of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration, believing them to be a presidential overreach.
The White House sought to “clarify” the president’s remarks.
“As the President announced today, he is working on an executive order to establish a merit-based immigration system to further protect U.S. workers,” deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. “Furthermore, the President has long said he is willing to work with Congress on a negotiated legislative solution to DACA, one that could include citizenship, along with strong border security and permanent merit-based reforms. This does not include amnesty.”
Trump will have a fight on his hands if he tries to grant the DREAMers some kind of permanent legal status. But with the program still in place, he has some options on what to do with it. He can narrow the scope of the deferred prosecutions. He can limit the number of immigrants who can take advantage of the path to citizenship. He could deny immigrants that right if they’ve committed a felony,
I don’t think the president is serious about going to Congress with any kind of immigration proposal — at least for the rest of this term. But as a political gambit for a president seeking re-election and wanting Hispanic votes, it was a sound move.