WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump on Saturday juxtaposed a high-profile murder case involving an illegal immigrant from Mexico with efforts in Congress to protect undocumented immigrants brought into the United States when they were children.
In his weekly radio address, Trump bemoaned this week’s acquittal of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate in the murder of Kate Steinle, who was shot as she walked along a San Francisco pier in 2015.
Trump has highlighted the case as an example of the failure of “sanctuary cities,” where local officials do not work with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws. Officials in sanctuary cities argue that is more important for police to gain trust in local immigrant communities.
“Unfortunately, Democrats in Congress not only oppose our efforts to stop illegal immigration and crack down on sanctuary cities – now they are demanding amnesty as a condition for funding the government,” Trump said.
Democrats in Congress, along with some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, are trying to enact a law protecting from deportation so-called “Dreamers” – those undocumented immigrants who arrived when they were children.
Under the legislation, these immigrants would be screened for past criminal behaviour and would be allowed to remain in the United States without threat of deportation as long as they met certain conditions.
In September, Trump ended former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but called on Congress to pass legislation replacing it by March.
Trump, like many Republicans, argued Obama did not have the authority to use his executive powers to create DACA, which protects about 700,000 immigrants as they work and attend school in the United States.
But he said of the Dreamers, “I have a great heart for the folks we’re talking about, a great love for them.”
In his weekly address, however, Trump said, “Every senator and congressman will have to make a choice: do they want to protect American citizens or do they want to protect criminal aliens?” Democrats are trying to attach the so-called DACA fix to end-of-year legislation that must be passed to keep the government operating into next year.
Trump and many Republicans in Congress insist that the immigration legislation be divorced from any spending bill that they hope will boost US military funding.
But supporters of the Dream Act fear that it will be too easy for opponents to block its passage as a stand-alone bill.