Southern Arizona Democratic lawmakers balked at President Trump’s offer to give temporary legal status for “dreamers” in exchange for $5.7 billion in federal funding for his border wall.
Some of the strongest pushback came from the two Democrats whose congressional districts represent the roughly 370 miles of Arizona-Mexico border.
“Today’s ‘compromise’ is the same old recycled rhetoric, lies, and backtracking that we’ve come to expect from Donald Trump,” Rep. Raul Grijalva said. “Once again, he used his presidential pulpit to falsely characterize the borderlands as dens of crime and horror while refusing to acknowledge the role his policies have played in creating the humanitarian crisis we see at the border today.”
Grijalva, whose district spans from Nogales to the California border, said the man known for the “Art of the Deal” failed to live up to his reputation with his address Saturday, offering a “half-baked solution” to Congress.
“Throughout his entire presidency, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to negotiate in good faith. Time and time again, he’s used dreamers, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients, and families seeking asylum as pawns in a sick game to get his ridiculous wall for his shrinking base,” Grijalva said.
“Talk about reforming our immigration system rings hollow when congressional Republicans — long before Trump entered office — repeatedly killed attempts at comprehensive immigration reform.”
The Tucson Democrat said Republicans need to acknowledge that they have long fought proposed fixes to border security, noting the GOP opposed the “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal back when it emerged in 2013.
“Republicans cannot wash their hands on the issue,” Grijalva said.
The House is ready to seriously discuss hiring more customs agents, modernizing the ports of entry and a path forward for dreamers and TPS recipients, but Trump must end the shutdown first, he said.
“Democrats are ready to work across the aisle on these issues, but only when President Trump reopens the government and stops holding government funding, federal workers and dreamers hostage for his vanity wall,” he added.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick said Trump’s proposal shows that Republicans like Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell do not understand how the federal shutdown is hurting the economy.
“Mitch McConnell and President Trump don’t realize the harm of the shutdown,” Kirkpatrick said.
A proposal to give temporary status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients isn’t enough, she said.
“We’ve got to have permanent protection,” she said.
The Tucson Democrat says if the shutdown continues, federal workers might leave, taking jobs in the private sector.
“Employees are going to quit their jobs,” Kirkpatrick said.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, whose district spans from the northernmost part of Tucson to the Utah border, said discussions on how to secure the border could proceed only when the federal government shutdown is over.
“We have an obligation to protect our borders, and we can do it by investing in our Border Patrol agents and smart 21st-century security technology. We must also address our broken immigration system and give dreamers stability,” O’Halleran said. “Once we reopen the federal government and get hundreds of thousands of employees back to their paying jobs, we can begin those negotiations.”
Representatives for Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally did not respond to requests from the Arizona Daily Star for comment Saturday.