MIAMI – The White House's proposal providing a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young undocumented migrants whose parents brought them to the United States wasn't welcomed with applause by all in South Florida Thursday.
While conservative activists say that any path to citizenship is "amnesty," Democrats accuse President Donald Trump of lacking compassion when he announced in September that he was doing away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson continues to be among Trump's harshest critics in South Florida. She said Trump ended the program protecting some 690,000 young immigrants "for no good reason" and is using "Dreamers" as bargaining chips.
"He wants to hold Dreamers hostage to a plan crafted by anti-immigration hardliners," Wilson said, adding that it "includes harsh restrictions."
Trump asked Congress to come up with a solution before March 5, or DACA recipients would be subject to deportation. Now, officials say, his new plan would only allow those who currently meet all of DACA’s eligibility requirements to sponsor their spouses and underage children to join them in the U.S., but not their parents.
"We are going to morph into it," Trump told reporters about a path to citizenship. "It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years."
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said he will continue working with colleagues and the White House on a legislative solution that will pass both chambers and be quickly signed into law.
"It is clear that the president is focused on finding a permanent solution," Diaz-Balart said.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo said Trump's proposal diverges significantly from partisan legislation recently introduced in the House, and he is hopeful.
"This outline is a good start, and I commend the administration for putting the onus on Congress to move forward after years of inaction on immigration policy," Curbelo said. "Let's get this done."
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings also wants to get to work on a compromise, but he wants to put aside Trump's proposal and focus on the Dream Act. He believes Trump's political adviser Stephen Miller is behind the plan.
"Trump's isolationist vision is a betrayal of American values," Hastings said. "He would rather cut-off a legitimate pathway of immigration to the United States, separate families, and create an arbitrary litmus-test for citizenship."
The American Civil Liberties Union called Trump's proposal "a hateful, xenophobic immigration proposal that would slash legal immigration to levels not seen since the racial quotas of the 1920s, eliminate legal immigration channels for African countries, and spend $25 billion for a harmful, wasteful border wall and an increase in Border Patrol and ICE agents."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to comment on the subject at 9:45 a.m. Friday, before the start of the Jose Marti Parade in Miami's Little Havana.