MCALLEN, RGV – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen was quick to dismiss President Trump’s latest offer to end the partial government shutdown.
On Saturday afternoon Trump spoke to the nation from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. He offered to extend temporary protections for young people brought to the U.S. without papers as children.
He also said he would retain a measure that allows those fleeing disaster zones to stay in the country. In exchange he wanted support for his long-promised $5.7 billion border wall.
Trump said the proposal was a “common-sense compromise” that would “break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border.”
The partial government shutdown has now reached a record 30 days, with 800,000 Americans going without paychecks. Most polls show a majority of the general public blames the president for the shutdown.
Democrats have told Trump he must reopen government before talks can start. Congressman Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents the 15th Congressional District of Texas, said this of Trump’s latest proposal:
“This week I visited the White House in an effort to request that the President reopen the federal government. Democrats are coming to the table for negotiations on border security and immigration policy, but this conversation must continue with an open government.
“Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status must be protected, but with a sense of morality, not as bargaining chips. The President cannot continue to hold federal employees hostage when he does not get his way.
“Border security and immigration solutions are complex, providing financial security for approximately 800,000 federal employees is simple. Reopen the government and work with us on a real deal, Mr. President.”
Border Trade Alliance President Ms. Britton Clarke offered her group’s response to the Trump proposals.
“The Border Trade Alliance hopes today is the first step toward the White House and Congress quickly entering earnest, good faith negotiations to reopen the government fully. This shutdown has gone on too long and too many governmental functions are going unfulfilled,” Clarke said.
Formed in 1986, the BTA has served as a grassroots, non-profit organization that provides a forum for discussion and advocacy on issues pertaining to border development and quality of life and trade in the Americas. A network of public and private sector representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada, BTA’s core values include a commitment to improving the quality of life of border communities through trade and commerce.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also panned the proposal as “more hostage taking,” saying that it was Trump who had “single-handedly” imperiled the future of the immigrants he proposed to help.
The New York Democrat said there is only “one way out” of the shutdown. “Open up the government, Mr. President, and then Democrats and Republicans can have a civil discussion and come up with bipartisan solutions.” he said.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, said she would study the details of the plan but did not commit to vote for it. She added of the shutdown: “This needs to end now.”
To ensure wall funding, Trump said he would extend temporary protections for three years for “Dreamers,” young people brought to the country without papers as children.
Administration officials said the protections would apply only to the approximately 700,000 people currently enrolled in the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, and not all those who could be eligible. The plan would offer no pathway to citizenship for those immigrants — a deal breaker for many Democrats.
Trump also proposed a three-year extension to the temporary protected status the U.S. offers to immigrants fleeing countries affected by natural disasters or violence. Officials said the exemption would apply to about 300,000 people who currently live in the U.S. under the program and have been here since 2011.
This would mean people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti — countries that saw the status revoked since Trump took office — would get a reprieve.
Criticism of the president’s latest proposals is also coming from the Hard Right.
NumbersUSA seeks to reduce both legal and undocumented immigration to the U.S. “The offer the President announced today is a loser for the forgotten American workers who were central to his campaign promises,” said Roy Beck, the group’s president.
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter tweeted: “Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” She was referencing Trump’s 2016 rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In a briefing with reporters, Vice President Mike Pence defended the proposal from criticism from the right. “This is not an amnesty bill,” he insisted.
Editor’s Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story, with reporting from Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey and Zeke Miller.