After Hearing Mayors' Concerns, Trump Promises to 'Work Something Out' for Immigrant Children

by | December 8, 2016

By Lisa Mascaro

President-elect Donald Trump has made many promises on immigration, including a new one Wednesday to "work something out" for the so-called Dreamers _ young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

"We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," Trump said in a Time magazine interview.

"They got brought here at a very young age, they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen."

Trump had routinely pledged to get rid of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, the executive action that temporarily shields young people from deportation if they are students, in the military or working, and are otherwise law-abiding.

Trump still pledges to do that. But now he's also suggesting he would like to find some way to continue accommodating these young people in the United States.

Advocates for the immigrants are taking no chances, pushing for a legislative fix in Congress and calling on Obama to intervene before Trump takes office.

More than 700,000 young immigrants are in the DACA program, and they provided the federal government with their personal data when they applied. Many worry the Trump administration will use that to track them down for deportation. They must reapply every two years.

On Capitol Hill, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., are working on a bill to protect the Dreamers if Trump ends the DACA program.

"We're encouraged by these comments by President-elect Trump _ they present an opportunity to do the right thing for more than 744,000 young people who grew up here," the senators said in a statement. "We will soon have a legislative response ready if needed. They have much to contribute to the country they love."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's first chief of staff, delivered a letter to Trump on Wednesday from 14 mayors calling for support of the young immigrants.

"We are clear as mayors that these are Dreamers who are seeking the American dream, and we should embrace them rather than do a bait-and-switch," Emanuel told reporters after his meeting at Trump Tower. "All of us fundamentally believe that these are students, these are also people who want to join the armed forces ... . They are something we should hold up and embrace."

But others have been wary of Trump's shifting positions on immigrants and his attacks on Mexicans as "criminals" and "rapists."

"Before anyone falls into the trap of believing that Trump is 'softening' on immigration, they should remember that we've seen this movie before," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an immigration advocacy organization.

In the House, dozens of Democrats signed a letter asking Obama to pardon the Dreamers for civil immigration law violations before he leaves office.

The White House has rejected such appeals before, but lawmakers are pressing Obama to intervene.

"We have a responsibility to stand with the Dreamers," said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., at a news conference at the Capitol.

"The message (to Trump) is simple: If you come for Dreamers, if you come for immigrant families ... you will have to go through House Democrats, and we are standing together."

But some Republicans on Capitol Hill are also holding Trump to the hard line on immigration he promised during the campaign.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., introduced legislation that would halt all federal funding _ including money for higher education _ for any entity that refuses to enforce immigration laws.

(c)2016 Tribune Co.