Washington: US President Donald Trump, who is facing a growing backlash over the partial government shutdown, has shifted course and offered Democrats a deal for the temporary protection of some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion funding for his proposed Mexico border wall.
Trump, who made his offer on Saturday during a 13-minute televised speech from the White House, floated extending protections for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme recipients for three years and a three-year extension of protections for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, reports The Hill magazine.
“Both sides in Washington must simply come together, listen to each other, put down their armour, build trust, reach across the aisle and find solutions,” Trump said.
The President added that he was making his pitch to “break the logjam” that has paralysed Washington since December 22, leaving roughly a quarter of the government closed and forcing roughly 800,000 federal employees be furloughed or work without pay.
But the proposal, appeared dead on arrival at the Capitol, reports The New York Times. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected it even before Trump spoke, and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, denounced the offer as “not a compromise but more hostage taking”.
Saturday’s proposal was Trump’s first public offer to Democrats since the shutdown began. It came after an acrimonious week of tit-for-tat tactics, in which Pelosi told the President he could not deliver his State of the Union address in the Capitol on January 29 until the shutdown was over and Trump retaliated by grounding a plane that was supposed to take the Democrat leader on a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan.
The speech was the second time during the shutdown that the President addressed the nation about the immigration crisis.
But unlike his first address on January 9, a prime-time broadcast from the Oval Office that leaned heavily about the dangers of crime and illegal drugs flowing across the border, Trump on Saturday softened his tone.
Calling the wall “a powerful and beautifully designed see-through steel barrier on our southern border”, Trump said: “This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea. These are steel barriers in high priority locations. Much of the border is already protected by natural barriers such as mountains and water.”
The President noted that he had adopted some Democratic proposals on border security. He proposed $800 million for humanitarian assistance and $805 million for drug detection technology, in addition to funding for 2,750 more border agents and law enforcement officials and 75 new immigration judge teams.