Donald Trump’s former chief strategist said the president’s request for Congress to legalize some people brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children could cost Republicans their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“I’m worried about losing the House now because of this — because of DACA,” Steve Bannon said in a prerecorded interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“If this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013,” he said. “And to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely unwise.”
Trump announced on Sept. 5 that he would end the program known as DACA, initiated by President Barack Obama in 2012, which has given temporary work permits to about 800,000 young, undocumented people who met certain conditions. Trump said his decision would include a six-month delay so Congress can codify the program into law, and he has threatened to revisit his decision if lawmakers fail to act.
Bannon, who left the White House in August and has returned to the right wing news outlet Breitbart, said the program shouldn’t be codified.
“As the work permits run out, they self deport,” he said. “There’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card and no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable.”
To receive work permits under DACA, applicants must have come to the U.S. before age 16, lived in the country continuously, be attending or have completed school or served in the military, and have no criminal record. The government said it’s no longer processing new DACA applications received after Sept. 5, and is only accepting renewal requests received by Oct. 5.
The issue of immigration has deeply divided Republicans for more than a decade, pitting the nativist, anti-immigration wing that Bannon represents against the pro-business wing that believes immigrants are good for the U.S.
Despite a push in 2013 from Republican strategists who say the party needs to attract more Hispanic voters, House Republicans killed Obama’s effort to liberalize the immigration system. A similar push by President George W. Bush in 2007 died in the Senate — largely because of Republican opposition.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he’s pleased that Trump included a six-month delay before ending the DACA program, saying those participants worried about deportation should “rest easy” because Congress will work with Trump to achieve a compromise that protects them.
“These kids don’t — for the most part, don’t know any other home than the United States,” Ryan said on Sept. 6.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Trump’s move to end the program but made no promises that Congress would approve a legislative solution.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Bannon described himself as a “street fighter” and signaled his intention to battle those, including members of the Republican establishment, who he believes are standing in the way of the “economic nationalist movement.”
“Our purpose is to support Donald Trump,” he said.