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Trump is transforming the GOP against legal immigration. Will Congress follow?

President Trump speaks during a retreat with Republican lawmakers at Camp David this month. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images) None
President Trump speaks during a retreat with Republican lawmakers at Camp David this month. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

The furor over President Trump’s language about immigrants from “shithole countries” has partially obscured the substance of what he was demanding and the profound shift among Republicans beyond opposing illegal immigration to also pushing new limits on legal migrants, particularly those of color.

Trump made the remark as he rejected a bipartisan proposal from Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to resolve the status of some 700,000 so-called Dreamers facing deportation. In exchange for protecting them, Trump wanted more restrictions on legal migrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, among other changes.

Those demands come as Trump has already put the country on track to remove 1 million immigrants over the next two years. Among them are the Dreamers — young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children — and more than 200,000 Salvadorans, nearly 60,000 Haitians and others from Central America who have lived in the U.S. legally, in some cases for decades, under temporary protected status plans that the administration is ending.

The mounting total is a policy reversal for Republicans, who until recently insisted that welcoming new arrivals was vital not just to the fabric of American life but in boosting the domestic economy. Now, many Republicans in Congress have shifted to a more restrictionist position, following Trump’s lead.

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