The Trump administration released a list of hard-line immigration principles late Sunday that threaten to derail a deal in Congress to allow hundreds of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally.
The administration’s wish list includes the funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors and curbs on federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” according to a document distributed to Congress and obtained by The Washington Post.
This is either another Trumpian bluff, a gesture to cheer his anti-immigrant base or, alternatively, evidence that his most ferociously anti-immigrant adviser Stephen Miller is trying to wreck a deal to fix President Barack Obama’s executive order DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which Miller’s boss ended. Many pro-immigrant groups suspected the latter. The American Civil Liberties Union put out a statement that read in part:
The White House ‘principles’ amount to nothing more than Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller’s Dreamer deportation outline. Miller’s wishlist of anti-immigrant policies is designed to scuttle progress for Dreamers and is afoul with unconstitutional “reforms.”
Members of Congress of both parties who want to resolve the status of undocumented immigrant youth should recognize that these policies are a non-starter and get back to work on behalf of the vast majority of Americans who want to get something constructive done instead.”
Likewise, America’s Voice Education Fund suggested that this latest move had the finger prints of overly ambitious aides written all over it:
We will be watching to hear from the President himself. If he indicates that 1) this is a wish-list meant to signal to his base that he’s still a hardliner, not a list of must-haves in any Dream Act deal; and 2) he’s willing to work with Democrats to pass a Dream Act without these poison pills by the end of the year; then it’s full steam ahead. If not, then Trump and the Republican Party are headed towards an ugly outcome. They will go down in history as the architects of one of the cruelest moves in American history: exposing 800,000 American young people to deportation from the country they love to countries they barely remember.
Is this the end of the “Chuck and Nancy” outreach for which Trump was praised after agreeing to a debt-ceiling postponement with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)? The two Democrats put out a joint statement:
The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans.
We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.
The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.
Unless the president wants to be on the opposite side of the more than 80 percent of Americans who tell pollsters they want the dreamers to stay, he’d be wise to signal he’s not going to stick to these positions.
Democrats and Republicans seeking a workable solution might simply ignore the president. The Dream Act and the Succeed Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), offer good-faith attempts to legalize the dreamers. Lankford put out a polite but firm statement in response to the White House’s list of immigration demands: “No one in America thinks the current immigration system works well. It hasn’t been updated in 30-plus years and the lack of action has led to a system that has incentivized illegal immigration,” he said in tones designed to soothe the president. “I appreciate the White Houses’ input on reforming our immigration system. Congress must stop kicking the can down the road, and finally address our border security and immigration problems.” Translation: He’ll take the White House statement under advisement but won’t be deterred by it.
The focus should be on forging a veto-proof compromise bill. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will need to sidestep the Freedom Caucus to come up with the House’s version. If the House and Senate majorities who favor a DACA fix remain focused on forging a broadly popular bill, they will not be made hostage to Miller (whose advice on ending DACA backfired spectacularly, leaving Trump cheering for amnesty), outside anti-immigration groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, talk-radio demagogues and congressional anti-immigrant grandstanders like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). It is well past time that the rabid anti-immigration right be discounted, ignored and defeated. Trump then can decide if he wants to be on the winning side with the majority of voters or stand with the rump group of immigrant demonizers.