President Trump's position on DACA has taken several twists and turns over the years. (Meg Kelly,Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

THE MORNING PLUM:

It is becoming obvious that if President Trump goes through with terminating the program protecting 800,000 “dreamers” from deportation, the backlash is going to be ferocious — perhaps rivaling the blowback that met Trump’s pardoning of Joe Arpaio or his refusal to unambiguously condemn the Charlottesville white supremacists. Business executives are warning Trump not to take the plunge, and some Republicans, no doubt mindful of this brewing backlash, are beginning to suggest that they will act to protect the dreamers on their own.

But the blowback might be even worse than the White House or Republicans anticipate.

Here’s why. Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could have terrible consequences for a large population that has not yet gotten the attention it deserves: dreamers who are enrolled in schools and universities. While the focus has understandably been on the enormous numbers of dreamers who will lose work permits and jobs if DACA is terminated, the disruptive impact this might have on students could add another dimension to the story, one that will garner more media attention, should this happen.

DACA has made it easier for large numbers of dreamers to attend universities, primarily by granting them temporary lawful status, offering them the stability and protection from removal that facilitated the pursuit of higher education. This is one key way in which DACA has allowed this population to set down deeper roots in the United States and prepare for a future in which they will contribute positively to American life.

But ending DACA could upend this arrangement. The problem is not necessarily that, without DACA status, these people could no longer legally attend colleges. Rather, Democrats worry that they will have to make very tough decisions as to whether they should continue, because they could be subject to removal in the near term, or have no certainty about their futures in the United States over the long term, or both.

“Ending the program presents a very difficult choice for individual students, because the value of investing in your own education depends on whether you are able to live and work openly or not,” Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) told me in an emailed statement. “As the academic year begins, this could be a huge disruption for college and school administrators.”

Indeed, there are signs some universities are already gaming out what this scenario means for them and their DACA students. Immigration attorney David Leopold told me this morning that he has been consulting with universities who have asked him whether, by removing protections from deportation, that would mean Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents might come on to campus to pursue removals, and what their options are if that happens.

“Universities are trying to figure out what their policy will be,” Leopold told me. “Their first concern has been, how do we protect our students? They see this as disrupting their students’ education. They are asking, what do we do if ICE comes on campus looking for our students?”

Remember, by signing up for DACA, the program’s recipients have shared information about their identities and whereabouts with the government, facilitating their removal if ICE wants to. Of course, it’s very possible nothing like that will happen. A lot depends on how Trump rescinds DACA (if he goes through with it). If the basic signal is that it’s now open season on former DACA recipients, then we could see removals — or at least, this is one scenario advocates fear. But even if there aren’t removals — even if DACA recipients are designated as a very low priority for removal — many still may face tough choices about their educational futures, due to uncertainty about their long-term presence here.

It’s not easy to estimate the size of this population. A study of more than 3,000 dreamers recently released by the Center for American Progress found that 45 percent of respondents are currently in school, and of that group, 72 percent are currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree. Respondents reported pursuing degrees in all kinds of fields, from civil engineering to early childhood education to environmental science to neuroscience to social work. Given that there are now 800,000 people on DACA, this population may be substantial.

This may or may not weigh on Trump’s decision — he has to decide whether to keep the program in the face of a threat from a coalition of states to sue to overturn it if he does not end it himself. But even if it doesn’t, this could still matter, because it could put added pressure on Congress, particularly Republicans, to legislate a solution for the dreamers if their protections are removed. The specter of people uprooting their lives — in the midst of pursuing an education to bolster their opportunities for self-advancement and enhance their potential to contribute to American life — may boost the moral and political urgency Congress feels to act.

* REPUBLICAN WANTS TO FORCE A VOTE ON DREAMERS: Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) has announced that if Trump kills DACA, he will launch a discharge petition to force a vote on a bill that would grant the dreamers temporary protected status:

It’s likely that most, if not all, 194 House Democrats would sign onto Coffman’s discharge petition, meaning he would need at least 23 GOP colleagues to endorse his effort. So far, only 12 mostly centrist Republicans have cosponsored Coffman’s legislation.

However, in part because of the reasons outlined above, if Trump really goes through with this, you could see enough Republicans backing it to enable this to work.

* TRUMP IS CHAFING UNDER KELLY’S NEW STRUCTURE: The Post reports that new chief of staff John Kelly has tried to institute a new system which limits what information — and who — can get to the president. But Trump doesn’t like that:

Trump sometimes defies — and even resents — the new structure. He has been especially sensitive to the way Kelly’s rigid structure is portrayed in the media and strives to disabuse people of the notion that he is being managed. The president continues to call business friends and outside advisers, including former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, from his personal phone when Kelly is not around, said people with knowledge of the calls.

Excellent. This way Bannon (who urged Trump to stick to blaming both sides for Charlottesville and to pardon Joe Arpaio) can keep speaking directly to the president’s very worst instincts.

* HURRICANE HARVEY MAY WASH AWAY TRUMP’S WALL: Carl Hulse explains how the Texas disaster could upend Trump’s threat to force a government shutdown to get his wall on the southern border:

Mr. Trump is eager to be seen as a competent manager in his first big test in a natural disaster, and a shutdown could shatter that image. … The magnitude of the storm threatens to … relegate to the background Mr. Trump’s demands for a border wall. … And it may make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to follow through on his promises of a broad crackdown on illegal immigration.

In a sense, this may give Trump an excuse for not getting the wall funding he probably wasn’t going to get anyway.

* JOB GROWTH SLUMPS IN AUGUST: The monthly jobs numbers are in:

The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in August as unemployment was essentially unchanged at 4.4. percent, federal economists reported Friday. … The growth missed expectations, as analysts had expected the economists would report approximately 200,000 new jobs in August. … average monthly jobs gains this year, which as of July sat at 184,000, are essentially unchanged from last year’s figure (187,000).

Remember the rule: When the jobs numbers are good under Trump, they are real. When they are bad (or when they were good under Obama), they are fake.

* TRUMP MAY TRY TO WEAKEN CONSUMER PROTECTIONS: The New York Times reports that the White House sought to weaken the consumer protection bureau set up by Dodd-Frank and run by Richard Cordray, but backed off because polling showed it was popular. So:

Lobbyists for the financial industry are working behind the scenes on efforts to dismantle some of the bureau’s signature initiatives, according to people directly involved in the plans. … For now, though, it is mostly a waiting game. Mr. Cordray’s term as director expires next July, when he could be replaced with a sympathetic Trump appointee.

Replacing an aggressive consumer protection watchdog with one favored by Wall Street lobbyists is a good way to keep draining the swamp and sticking it to the elites.

* BUSINESS LEADERS URGE TRUMP NOT TO END DACA: The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 350 business executives, including those at Apple, GM and Starbucks, have signed an open letter urging Trump not to end protections for the dreamers:

Some U.S. business leaders have become more vocal with objections to Trump administration policies in the wake of events including the president’s pullout from the Paris Climate Accord and his comments in reaction to violent protests in Charlottesville, Va. … Ending the DACA program could lead to the deportation of important members of the future workforce of the U.S., the executives argue in the new letter.

Here is one area (unlike tax reform and deregulation) where Trump is not willing to pursue policies that business elites (not to mention most Americans) want. What a coincidence!

* WILL TRUMPISM TRANSFORM THE GOP? Trump’s media supporters have endorsed Kelli Ward to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in a primary. Michael Gerson asks whether this could mean Trump will transform the GOP along Trumpist lines over the long term:

Flake has been a tough and consistent critic of Trump, based less on ideology than on the president’s preference for vitriolic, tribal politics. … To defeat Flake, Arizona voters would need to choose a right-wing populist in the tradition of Pat Buchanan over a libertarian in the tradition of Barry Goldwater. This would involve, not just an electoral choice, but a rethinking of Republican orthodoxy, with far-reaching implications. If Republicans such as Flake are ousted in primaries, the Republican Party as we know it will be unrecognizable and unsupportable.

Trump may have created a GOP constituency that will have to be appealed to with overt white identity politics, rather than the covert racial dog-whistling Republicans have employed for so long.

* MCCAIN: TRUMP IS ‘IMPULSIVE’ AND ‘POORLY INFORMED’: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) serves up a Post op-ed arguing that Congress needs to get back to “regular order” and bipartisan cooperation, in order to deal with Trump:

That has never been truer than today, when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct. … we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.

Hear, hear! For starters, how about pushing Trump harder to release his tax returns; passing something making it harder to remove the special counsel; and sounding a loud warning that any pardons in the Russia probe will be met with a forceful response?