U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that any legislation that gives immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children the opportunity to become citizens must include funding for a border wall while ending the practice known as chain migration and the visa lottery program.
In September, Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which was instituted by former President Barack Obama. It protected nearly 800,000 immigrants from deportation, allowing them to legally live and work in the United States.
Trump gave Congress until March 5 to agree on legislation that would provide equivalent protections to those offered under DACA.
At a White House meeting on immigration with Republican senators, Trump said, "Our current immigration systems fails Americans," and he cited chain migration as an example. Chain migration is a community- or extended-family-based process by which immigrants from a particular area follow others from that area to specific U.S. cities or neighborhoods.
"Chain migration is a total disaster which threatens our security and our economy and provides a gateway for terrorism," Trump told the senators.
Trump also called for an end to the visa lottery program, which accepts applicants who have passed background checks and who have the equivalent of a high school education or experience in a job that requires a minimum of two years of training. Trump said the visa lottery "is bad for our economy and very bad for security."
'We're going to have a wall'
The president also said immigration reform would not be possible without more border security. "We need a physical border wall. We're going to have a wall, remember that, We're going to have a wall to keep out deadly drug dealers, dangerous traffickers and violent criminal cartels."
Trump expressed hope that his proposals would have the support of Democrats, who are struggling to agree on a unified immigration strategy. Democrats demanded, but were denied, a vote last month on a measure that would allow an estimated 1.2 million immigrants to remain legally in the U.S.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters Thursday that Trump would meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers next week to discuss "next steps on responsible immigration reform."
Liberal groups want Democratic lawmakers to find a way to force immigrant protections into a government spending bill that must be approved by January 19, even if it results in a government shutdown.
Democratic lawmakers who support the protection of DACA beneficiaries enjoy broad public support. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released December 19 found that 62 percent of those surveyed said Congress should approve protections for DACA immigrants, while 19 percent said Congress should allow DACA to lapse.