White House officials released a series of startling statistics on Tuesday that cast family-based chain migration as a security threat to the United States, hoping to pressure Democrats into pursuing merit-based immigration reforms.
"Our simple ask here is that the U.S. Congress work with the administration to reform our immigration system to end chain migration," a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday morning.
"The focus of our immigration system should be on promoting assimilation, not bringing in individuals who they themselves, or their children, will eventually take up arms against the United States," the official added.
Citing a new report by the Department of Homeland Security, administration officials said there are "fundamental flaws" in the current U.S. immigration system that make domestic terrorism more difficult to combat, including the distribution of visas at random under the Diversity Visa Lottery program.
"Ali Shukri Amin, who entered the United States as the child of a visa lottery recipient, was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to ISIS," the senior administration official said, adding there are "a litany of other examples" of individuals who were brought into the U.S. through family connections and later found guilty of terrorist-related activities.
Such cases indicate "fundamental flaws where we have individuals who are admitted through our flawed immigration system, who are not likely to assimilate to the U.S., and are likely to turn their back on the U.S.," the official said.
"What we have with the diversity visa lottery program is individuals who were not elected to come to the United States based on their love, based on their merit," the official continued. "We want to bring in individuals, wherever they may be from, who love this country, who have skills, who have talent, who speak English, [and] who are committed to supporting our values and our way of life."
The official also said the estimated number of women currently at risk of female genital mutilation in the U.S. — 513,000 — is three times higher than it was in 1990 because "of the number of immigrants from FGM-practicing countries that are living in the United States."
White House officials are currently working with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to broker a deal that codifies protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and reforms elements of the legal immigration system.
President Trump rejected a tentative bipartisan plan presented to him last week after it failed to meet his demand for $18 million in border security funding over the next decade, and extended temporary status protections to Haitian and some African immigrants. In a moment that has since caused tremendous backlash, the president questioned why the U.S. would want individuals from "shithole countries" coming into America.
The new DHS report comes as four lawmakers involved in top-level immigration talks are expected to reconvene late Tuesday to continue working toward some bipartisan solution.
Democrats, meanwhile, have threatened to withhold votes for a short-term spending bill later this week if GOP leaders refuse to attach a clean DACA bill, creating an opening for a potential government shutdown come Friday.