President Trump is proposing a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants in exchange for hard-line steps to increase border security and curb legal immigration, a trade-off swiftly opposed by key Democrats.
Trump’s support for “dreamers” who have been in the country illegally since they were children represents a significant concession to Democrats and was intended as a compromise to help break the impasse over immigration in Congress, White House aides said Thursday.
The plan offers a citizenship path to more than twice as many dreamers as were enrolled in a deferred action program Trump terminated in September, a move that is likely to engender fierce blowback among some conservatives, especially in the House.
It is not clear if the White House is serious about this, or if it is intentionally setting up Democrats to be the ones to nix a solution for the dreamers. (“In a sign of how fraught the prospects for an immigration deal remain, the proposal was met with disdain from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as well as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”)
The proposal not only includes an eye-popping $25 billion for a wall and other security measures (Isn’t Mexico supposed to foot the bill?), but it ends immigration by family reunification — the ability for those who have become citizens to get green cards for parents, siblings and adult children. (Spouses and minor children could still be granted green cards.) And if that wasn’t enough, the proposal seeks to end the “lottery visa” — the process by which 50,000 immigrants from countries Trump would disparage (i.e. not European) are able to come to the United States. With the cancellation of that program, we get one step closer to Trump’s view of an America that looks like Norway.
Here is what Congress should do in response: Nothing. Trump and his anti-immigrant minions (e.g. Stephen Miller, chief of staff John F. Kelly) have already proved to be unreliable negotiators. They plainly are not out to make a deal on reasonable terms. There is no need to respond or reject a deal that is aimed at using dreamers to revamp the whole legal immigration system. The Senate is doing what a proper legislative body should be doing — coming up with its own legislation. Some 30 senators who actually want a deal (interestingly, Florida’s Marco Rubio is not among them) are meeting, trying to find consensus.
The White House proposal, however, is quite revealing.
First, it shows that “amnesty” was simply a slur to throw around at pro-immigration reformers. Legalizing dreamers is as much amnesty as was the Gang of 8 plan. The White House simply wants to bargain over the “price.”
Second, the anti-immigrant crowd has tipped its hand. Trump, Miller, Kelly and Sen. Tom Cotton (who fawned over the plan) have always denied they were out to curb legal immigration. However, the main thrust of this bill is, in fact, to cut and reshape legal immigration. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and Democrats should resist the invitation to use dreamers to leverage a deal that “whitens” our immigration system.
Third, the goal for pro-DACA lawmakers should not be a bill that cannot win bipartisan support, but one that has 60-plus votes in the Senate and a clear majority in the House. By definition, that cannot be a bill Miller and Cotton would love.
The Senate should continue its work and send its own legislation (which will need 60 votes) over to the House. Let the House come up with something that garners a majority. If the House cannot do so or cannot come to reasonable agreement in a conference, let the GOP take the heat in the midterms. And if by some miracle the House and Senate can agree on a bill to send to Trump’s desk (which would need the support of those 30 senators), would Trump have the nerve to veto it? I sincerely doubt it. He is the last person who wants an election year punctuated by scenes of sympathetic illegal immigrants being ripped from their families and booted out of the only country they have ever really known.
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