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Trump's New Immigration Proposal Lacks Support From Key Congress Members


Now let's bring in NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, who is also watching the president's immigration speech and listening to that conversation just then with Adam Kennedy. Hi, Mara.


SHAPIRO: I want to ask you about something that Kennedy just said - that this is not meant to be comprehensive. So how would you describe what it is meant to be?

LIASSON: Well, it isn't meant to be comprehensive, but you can imagine some kind of merit-based orientation to legal immigration being part of a comprehensive solution. As a matter of fact, if you went back to the Gang of Eight plan, that made the system more merit-based. I think...

SHAPIRO: That was a bipartisan...

LIASSON: Right. That was a...

SHAPIRO: ...Proposal that didn't go anywhere.

LIASSON: ...Bipartisan proposal. I think what this is meant to be for the short term is - as a senior administration official said yesterday, this is going to show the country that Republicans are not against immigrants. So it's political. It's to unify the Republicans around something positive. And what we did hear the president - for the - for one of the few times that he's ever talked about immigration in this way today - talked about America as a national family, that we're welcoming; we just want legal immigrants. That's something new for him.

So it's something that Republicans can rally around, and it's a little bit different tone than the way the president usually talks about immigrants, which are people who are dangerous, who are invading our country, infesting our country - are some of the words he's used...


LIASSON: ...To do us harm.

SHAPIRO: If Democrats ignore or reject this proposal, does that pose a political risk for them?

LIASSON: I don't think it's a risk for them to reject this proposal. I think what would be a risk for Democrats - if they don't have their own border security plan. The president today right at the top of his speech said, we are presenting a clear contrast; Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages and lawless chaos. In other words, he presented in starkly political terms right off the bat.

And I think that just as the Republicans and the president have a problem with immigration when they're associated with a border wall, with xenophobia, with separating children from their parents at the border, the Democrats have an issue - a problem if they don't address border security at all.

SHAPIRO: And so do you think this change in approach from the White House represents a reset or reframing of the debate around immigration?

LIASSON: I think it represents a tiny reframing. The thing that I found most interesting was that the administration did not feel it had to make any nod to the restrictionists. In other words, there was no drop in the overall number of green cards. Every other proposal that the president has made when he's negotiated with Democrats has always included a decrease in the number of legal immigrants. This one doesn't. It shows you that he must be pretty confident and not concerned about a blowback from his base.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson speaking with us from the White House. Thank you, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.