President Donald Trump reiterated Saturday that he plans to use "Dreamers" as bargaining chips to secure a "divisive and destructive" border wall and other items off a recycled anti-immigrant wish list.
Speaking from Camp David, where he is meeting with top Republicans, Trump told reporters, "We want the wall. The wall's gong to happen or we're not going to have DACA," referring to a legislative solution for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that afforded protections to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as youth, and which Trump ended in September.
In addition to wanting to get rid of so-called chain migration and the lottery system ("they're not sending us their finest," he argued), Trump said, "We want some money for funding. We need some additional border security." All those items, he said, should be in the same legislation.
His comments from the Maryland retreat come hours after a group of senators received a document detailing the administration's border security plan, which includes asking Congress for almost $18 billion to construct border fencing, despite Trump saying Saturday, "Mexico will pay, in some form" for the wall.
According to the Wall Street Journal, that $18 billion is just part of $33 billion in overall border security measures, which include drones and more agents.
As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement—and other advocacy groups noted as well—the plan mirrors one the White House released in October. At the time, that list, said to be the work of White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, was denounced as "red meat for xenophobic extremists."
"We've seen this wish list before," said Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream. "We saw it on Steve Bannon's infamous white board, we've seen it repeatedly from Jeff Sessions and Steven Miller over the years, and we saw it in October of last year when [the] White House tried to derail progress with a previous version of an anti-immigrant wish list."
Saying she's not "not a bargaining chip for Stephen Miller's vendetta against brown and black people," Martinez Rosas, a potential beneficiary of the Dream Act, added, "Trump said he wants to reach a solution but this is a tactic of people who want to blow up progress, not of people who are serious about solving problems."
"Congress must pass a spending bill by January 19th," she said of the deadline for Congress, "and both parties must make sure that the Dream Act is a part of it."
For Durbin, one of the senators who received the border plan, the president's demands could lead to a shutdown. "It's outrageous that the White House would undercut months of bipartisan efforts by again trying to put its entire wish-list of hardline anti-immigrant bills—plus an additional $18 billion in wall funding—on the backs of these young people."
The plan was also met with outrage by the ACLU, which said the potential expanded wall would serve as "an egotistical monument to the Trump administration's intolerance and irrationality."
Echoing United We Dream, Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU's Regional Center for Border Rights, said lawmakers should "focus on real issues like passing the Dream Act and denouncing as a non-starter the folly of squandering $33 billion on measures that would further oppress border communities."
Some lawmakers have taken to Twitter to denounce the resurfaced plan and Trump's vow to use of Dreamers as "bargaining chips":
I'm not sure why President Trump wants to shut down the government over an $18 billion wall that no one wants, isn't needed and Mexico won't pay for. What the American people want, overwhelmingly, is to provide legal protection and a path toward citizenship for 800,000 Dreamers.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 6, 2018
Dreamers aren’t bargaining chips. They aren’t pawns in @realDonaldTrump’s game. We made a promise. We said come out of the shadows & be fully woven into the fabric of America because that’s who you are. In America, we work hard & dream big & we must keep our promise to Dreamers.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 6, 2018
— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) January 6, 2018
Americans overwhelmingly oppose this wall because they know it's useless, it's insulting to our neighbors, and it won't make us safer.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) January 5, 2018
The president is all but holding the fates of some 800,000 young people hostage. Like so much from your administration, this is utterly disgraceful, @realDonaldTrump. For shame. https://t.co/NH9FIt4V6D
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 6, 2018
This administration’s attempt to use DREAMers as “leverage” to construct a border wall is disgusting.
— Rep. Raúl Grijalva (@standwithraul) January 6, 2018