Thu, Jan 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Wait and see on citizenship: US official

WALL STILL PRIORITY:The homeland security secretary said the administration first wants to close ‘loopholes’ for police to refuse enforcement and shield lone children

AP, SAN DIEGO, California

The administration of US President Donald Trump is to consider immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people, US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said on Tuesday, while adding that no decision on that issue has been made and a border wall remains the priority.

The US Congress is considering three options, including citizenship or permanent legal status for people who were temporarily shielded from deportation, Nielsen said in an interview.

Details on qualifying for citizenship, including on how many years to wait and other requirements, would have to be addressed.

Asked whether the president would support citizenship, she said: “I think he’s open to hearing about the different possibilities and what it means but, to my knowledge, there certainly hasn’t been any decision from the White House.”

In September last year, Trump said he would not consider citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The options being considered by the US Congress include permanent residency, residency for a certain amount of time — perhaps three or four years, subject to renewal — and citizenship, Nielsen said.

“The idea would be that you move away from a temporary status,” she said.

In October last year, Trump presented congressional leaders with a long list of demands to accompany protection for DACA recipients, many of which Democrats greeted with a thud.

Nielsen said she was hopeful the White House and Congress could reach a deal that includes border and immigration enforcement measures.

She said building a wall along the Mexico border was “first and foremost” and the administration wanted to end “loopholes” on issues that include handling asylum claims and local police working with immigration authorities.

Nielsen said she and other senior administration officials would discuss a potential deal with members of Congress this week and Trump was to take it up in a meeting yesterday with congressional leaders on legislative priorities for the year.

Nielsen spoke hours after the president blasted Democrats for “doing nothing” to protect DACA recipients.

Trump tweeted that “DACA activists and Hispanics will go hard against Dems, will start ‘falling in love’ with Republicans and their President! We are about RESULTS.”

Nielsen, who visited prototypes of Trump’s proposed border wall in San Diego, said the president would request US$1.6 billion next year for the barrier, in addition to the US$1.6 billion he is seeking to build or replace 118km in California and Texas.

“It’s all a down payment,” she said. “This is not going to get us the whole wall we need, but it’s a start.”

Nielsen said closing enforcement “loopholes” was also a priority. She mentioned refusals by some local police to honor requests from federal authorities to detain people in the country illegally; special legal protections for unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally and are not from Mexico or Canada; and criteria for passing an initial screening on asylum claims.

Nielsen said she believed any permanent protection for DACA recipients should be limited to the hundreds of thousands who qualified during the three years it was in effect, not anyone who would meet the criteria if it were still in place.

She said it should include permission to work.

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