U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened that he would shut down the government unless Democrats in the Congress allow steps to be taken to correct an immigration system that prohibits the government from deporting criminal gang members.
Trump made the remark in a meeting held with law enforcement officials to discuss the threat of the MS-13 gang.
It also comes just four days before yet another deadline to pass a spending bill lapses.
The last impasse over the spending bill was resolved after the Democrats were able to extract a promise from Republicans and Trump to develop a legislative solution for immigrants who had arrived in the United States as children and are covered by the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.
Backlash From Several Quarters
Trump’s threat was criticised by several lawmakers including fellow Republicans.
Rep. Barbara Comstock stated that there was no need for a government shutdown over this issue. Rep. Peter King, who was part of the M-13 meeting also distanced himself stating there was no need for a shutdown now.
Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, said Trump’s threat of shutdown speaks for itself and that no one but him perhaps wants a shutdown.
Trump claimed the MS-13 are able to recruit members through the country’s “broken immigration system” and violates its borders.
According to experts, by ensuring immigration is viewed as national security issue, Trump is looking to push Congress for curbs on immigration and in return offer a path to citizenship for childhood arrivals.
Dismissing claims of Trump holding the government hostage, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that the Democrats were the ones who have held the government hostage to their demands. She has however said that Trump was not threatening to veto a spending bill if there was no immigration deal .
The shutdown in early January lasted for three days before Congress approved a stopgap spending extension to allow the two sides more time to negotiate a longer-term deal.
Deadline For DACA Program Approaching
Trump wants the following four items to be present in any immigration bill considered by Congress:
- A permanent legal status for so-called DREAMers who entered the country illegally as children
- $25 billion in border security, including a Mexican border wall
- Restrictions on family-based “chain migration”
- Closing down the diversity visa lottery system that gives preferences to under-represented countries.
However there is no clarity yet on whether these elements will get included in the bill to be presented before the fast approaching deadline.
Another critical deadline is March 5, after which those DACA recipients who have not applied for a temporary extension to their status can face deportation.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly recently said that he doesn’t think Trump was considering extending the deadline for DACA recipients. He also pointed out that just 690,000 of the total 1.8 million eligible DREAMers have so far applied for that status, and questioned why the remaining had not.