As the Senate prepares to begin a free-wheeling debate over immigration next week, White House officials have begun floating a possible compromise idea — a pledge to maintain legal immigration at current levels, about 1.1 million people a year, for more than a decade.
President Trump has proposed a series of measures, including restrictions on family unification, which he calls “chain migration,” and an end to the visa lottery, that critics say ultimately could cut legal immigration to America by 40% or more.
But a White House official said Saturday that the Trump administration is working with allies in the Senate on a proposal that would create a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million people who were brought to the country illegally as children, and that would clear the backlog of nearly 4 million sponsored relatives who currently are waiting for green cards.
The combined effort, officials said, would effectively make up for the cuts in other immigration categories for about 13 years, the official said. After that, if Congress takes no additional action to add or expand visa categories, the total number of people allowed to resettle in the U.S. each year likely would decline by hundreds of thousands.
The outline began emerging early this week when John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, met with a half a dozen or so Latino Republicans at the White House and said the administration was prepared to ensure that overall immigration levels would remain steady.
The shift shows the White House is feeling out the contours of a possible compromise as lawmakers prepare for marathon immigration debates on the Senate floor next week over how to protect from deportation — and possibly provide legal status for — the estimated 1.8 million people brought to the country illegally as children.
About 800,000 of them were given protection from deportation by the Obama administration under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. But the Trump administration abruptly ended the program in September and set a six-month cut-off date for renewal applications.
By Brian Bennet for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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