A Kentucky senator who served on President Donald Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council during the 2016 presidential campaign says then-candidate Trump sounded amenable to providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, commonly known as dreamers.
As attempts at compromise immigration reform sputter in the U.S. House, the president has struck a pessimistic note on the chances for success before the midterm elections in November, tweeting last Friday that Republicans should stop “wasting time” on the contentious issue.
But Senator Ralph Alvarado – the first Hispanic elected to state office in Kentucky – says in behind-the-scenes conversations last year Trump appeared bullish on finding a more permanent successor to DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created through executive order by President Barack Obama. The Winchester Republican remembers a candidate who took seriously the question of shielding dreamers who have made a home for themselves in the U.S., becoming successful business owners and leaders, from deportation.
"That was something that was discussed behind closed doors then during his candidacy," Alvarado tells WUKY. "He was very open and understood the need for that... I can say that now after the campaign was done."
But asked about Trump’s recent signals downplaying the potential for congressional action on immigration, the senator is less certain.
"I think they (Congress) need to get it done," Alvarado says. "The sooner they can get that resolved the better. I think they've made a couple of attempts at it from what I understand from the news and weren't successful with it. But it needs to move."
The senator backs a path to citizenship for dreamers, but agrees with Trump that the U.S. must shore up security along the border. And the lawmaker, who addressed the 2016 Republican National Convention, says he suspects the president would sign “whatever Congress brings forward.”
Wednesday, the U.S. House overwhelmingly defeated a sweeping immigration package authored by moderate and conservative Republicans, throwing the possibility of major reforms before the fall into doubt.
Alvarado describes the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy at the border, which resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their families, as only the latest salvo in a long-running problem many presidents have faced.
"I know there's a legal angle to the entire issue that they were trying to approach. That's my understanding. They were doing that so that they could bring charges against parents that were coming in here illegally," the senator says.
Alvarado is pleased, however, that the administration is backing away from the policy.
"It just a horrible, horrible thing. We don't want to see that happen. I think most people are upset," the lawmaker adds. "I'm glad to see the president did an executive order to kind of reverse that, and just hoping we can get this fixed to resolve the problem."
Touching on reunification efforts, Alvarado said he can't imagine there being any interest in the government wanting to keep children separated from their parents.
Hundreds of Lexingtonians recently gathered downtown to demonstrate against Trump administration's policies at the border.