By Leandra Bernstein, Sinclair Broadcast Group
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — Reforming the immigration system was one of the most controversial issues President Donald Trump raised in his Tuesday State of the Union address. Members of the Trump administration are optimistic that despite outcries from the far left and the far right, the president's plan hit a "sweet spot."
The president's immigration plan will immediately address the population of immigrants brought to the United States illegally and protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, providing a pathway to citizenship for more than 1.4 million so-called dreamers. In exchange for protecting the DACA-eligible population, Trump has requested Congress appropriate funds for his border wall and take actions to end the diversity visa lottery and limit chain migration to the nuclear family.
Reactions from Democrats and Republicans were swift and severe. On the right, pundits called Trump "Amnesty Don," accusing him of providing amnesty to dreamers. On the left, lawmakers and activists accused Trump of "tearing families apart" and slashing legal immigration in half.
"I think one of the most encouraging things I've heard in the last 48 hours about the immigration proposals we've put forth is that there are some folks on the far left of the Democratic Party that don't like it and there are some folks on the far right of the Republican Party who don't like it, and to me that means maybe we've found that sweet spot down the middle," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday.
Far from a no-win situation, Mulvaney told Sinclair Broadcast that an agreement that upsets the extreme wings of both parties is ideal. "That's how deals get done."
In his State of the Union address, Trump again extended a hand to Republicans and Democrats to make a deal on immigration, based on the "four pillars" of his proposal.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doesn't believe the White House will have to "twist arms" to get both parties on board, but they will reach a compromise. "Nobody gets everything they want, but America gets what they need," Sanders said. "[The president] is making a few people on both sides of the aisle a little bit angry, but at the same time, he's laid out a policy that really helps benefit the country."
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly explained that the president's requests for DACA recipients, border security, the diversity visa lottery and family reunification represent a starting point that he believes both sides can agree to.
"It's a stake in the ground," Kelly said of the president's proposal. "The four pillars are what he sees as, not comprehensive reform, that'll never get done, [but] as the four things we can get done now to start that process of another phase."
However, Democrats resisted the president's immigration message on Tuesday night. Some members erupted in boos as the president described his proposal. According to Kelly, the Democrats are not angry at the proposal, they're "stunned."
"My view is the Democrats were so stunned that this president was willing to reach out that far across the aisle to double the size of the DACA population...and actually have a pathway to citizenship," Kelly said. "I still don't think they believe it."
The president's plan, released over the weekend, would protect 700,000 young immigrants who are currently enrolled in the DACA program. It also offers DACA protections to an additional 700,000 individuals who were eligible to apply for the program but didn't.
While many Democrats are pleased with the president's concessions for dreamers, they have argued that his plan to move to a "merit-based" immigration system was driven by immigration hawks in his administration and Congress and would have the effect of cutting legal immigration in half by limiting family reunification to spouses and minor children.
The White House disputed the claims, saying that the United States will still bring approximately 1.1 million immigrants to the country every year. The nearly 4 million family members who are currently "in the pipeline" for a visa, will not be turned away. Kelly stressed, "No one gets hurt."