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Demonstrators at Philadelphia International Airport hold signs against President Donald Trump's proposed border wall and his now-suspended immigration ban. (Photo: Joe Piette/flickr/cc)

Immigrant Advocates Slam Trump for Vowing No DACA Protections Without Border Wall

Ahead of next week's negotiations at the White House, Dreamers declare, "DACA recipients are not your bargaining chip, Mr. President."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer

With bipartisan talks on the immigration scheduled to begin at the White House next week, immigrant advocates denounced President Donald Trump on Friday for vowing in a tweet to only allow permanent protections for recipients of the terminated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if Democrats agree to funding his long-promised border wall.

DACA recipents and immigrant rights advocates criticized the president for positioning Dreamers—a term often used to describe DACA recipients, because the program was inspired by the DREAM Act—as a "bargaining chip" for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and implementing other aspects of his immigration agenda.

The future of DACA recipients has been unclear since early September, when the Trump administration discontinued the federal program that shielded from deportation undocumented people who were under the age of 16 when they entered the United States. Immigrant advocates are growing increasingly weary of Democratic leaders in Congress, who have claimed to be allies of Dreamers but reneged on their promise to reinstate DACA protections through federal legislation before the end-of-year recess.

In a piece published Thursday about Dreamers' growing distrust of Democrats, VICE News reported, "since September, most undocumented youth organizations have called for what's come to be known as a 'clean DREAM Act,' meaning a replacement for DACA that stands alone—rather than one that comes in exchange for more border security and expanded immigration enforcement." 

"A clean DREAM Act was always a long shot—more a pressure tactic than a realistic demand—but, in the weeks after Trump cancelled DACA, powerful Democrats played along," VICE noted. However, "now that Democrats have backed away from a real fight, the expectations have shifted."

"It's now understood that the only way that the DREAM Act, or something close to it, is going to pass is if it's coupled with some sort of border security measure," Frank Sharry, founder of America's Voice, told VICE. "The question is whether the Republicans are going to demand so much more that it blows up the possibility of relief for Dreamers."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brushed off Trump's tweet on Friday through her spokesman, Drew Hammill, who told Politico,"We're not going to negotiate through the press and look forward to a serious negotiation at Wednesday's meeting when we come back."

Pelosi is expected to meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff, at the White House on Wednesday. As Politico noted, "Kelly's lead role in the negotiations is a significant break from similar meetings in recent months, when Democrats have walked away emboldened and claiming to have won concessions from Trump."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who last week criticized his colleagues in Congress for failing to vote on DACA protections before the end of the year, called on Congress to "get its act together" and "protect the Dreamers" in a tweet on Friday.

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