President Trump is willing to support DACA — if Congress funds a border wall and other immigration proposals that tech hates
Trump shared his ideas for immigration reform with Congress late on Sunday.
President Donald Trump has told Congress that he would support a new law that spares young adults brought illegally to the United States from being deported — but only if lawmakers also fund his controversial plan to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
That new ultimatum — communicated to Capitol Hill in a legislative proposal shared on Sunday — has already infuriated Democrats and threatens to provoke a similar response in Silicon Valley, where tech giants have been sharply critical of Trump’s immigration agenda since the day he entered the White House.
For the president, the bargaining chip is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Implemented under former President Barack Obama, the initiative has allowed about 800,000 beneficiaries, known as Dreamers, to live and work in the U.S. on renewable authorizations.
Trump had long promised to unwind DACA — and in September, he set in motion a plan to end it by 2018. But the president still left the door open to brokering a compromise with Congress, at one point even tweeting that he had reached a “deal” with House and Senate Democrats on a path to reform.
Fast-forward to Sunday, when senior Trump administration officials offered their early demands for an immigration bill — one that preserves DACA at a steep price for its supporters. Along with a border wall, the president told Congress he believes their legislation should crack down unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. And the White House urged lawmakers to limit the visas it grants to immigrants’ family members, part of a shift to a merit-based system for awarding green cards.
Reacting to the proposal late Sunday, senior Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed unqualified outrage. “The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Chuck Schumer, in a joint statement.
Most of those ideas are sure to draw another round of rebukes from the tech industry, too. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for one, has previously taken aim at Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. And some of the most prominent names in Silicon Valley — speaking through one of their main trade groups in Washington, D.C. — earlier this year opposed a bill to restrict visas awarded to immigrants’ close family members.
For Trump and the tech industry, though, the standoff is nothing new: Tensions flared immediately after he entered the Oval Office, as the new president issued his first travel ban targeting travelers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Even after revising it, companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft led their peers in protesting Trump’s directives and challenging them in federal court.
So, too, did the tech industry skirmish with the White House as it pursued new restrictions on the country’s high-skilled foreign immigration visas, known as H-1Bs. Some of the industry’s most vocal advocates for reform — like the Zuckerberg-backed group FWD.us — slammed the White House again in April after it appeared to target a program benefiting skilled immigrants’ spouses.
By July, the Trump administration began to unravel a government program that would have paved the way for more foreign startup founders to come to the U.S. In the months to come, the country’s leading venture-capital firms sued to stop the U.S. government’s efforts to kill the initiative, called the International Entrepreneur Rule.
But nothing has provoked the kind of visceral reaction as Trump’s decision to end DACA.
Earlier in the summer, Apple CEO Tim Cook had urged the president to approach the Dreamers with more “heart.” But Trump did not listen to appeals by Cook and his counterparts, prompting the tech industry — which counts Dreamers among its ranks — to pillory the White House after it ended deportation protections in September.
Mere hours after unveiling its plans, Apple and Microsoft led a number of tech giants in promising to offer legal aid to workers who faced the risk of deportation. Others, like Amazon, joined court cases challenging the White House’s move. And the days to follow, top executives like IBM CEO Ginni Rometty paid a visit to Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to preserve the program.