President Trump says he wants Congress to rewrite the nation's immigration laws, ASAP. Yet his actions suggest a very different desire: He's doing nearly everything in his power to kill negotiations in Congress and rile up his base with anti-immigrant sentiment.
Does Trump even want an immigration deal to sign? Doesn't seem like it. Let's start from the beginning.
Some of the more immediate immigration crises are actually Trump's making. Last fall, Trump ended protections for undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children, often called “dreamers,” and tossed the politically fraught issue to Congress. This spring, Trump's administration decided to start prosecuting every single person who was apprehended crossing the U.S. border illegally, including families. That led to families who were seeking asylum in the United States being separated and children held in detainment centers.
Trump halted family separations last week, but it's up to Congress to figure out a long-term solution for what to do with families who cross and are immediately detained by Border Patrol agents under Trump's “zero tolerance” policy.
Congress, despite its dysfunction, is trying to legislate a fix for both problems. But Trump isn't just indecisive about what he wants done; he's straight-up sabotaging the best chance House Republicans have to get an immigration bill through their extremely divided caucus. He first said he wouldn't compromise on a House bill that has the most support, even though it gives him almost everything he's asked for — a $25 billion down payment on his border wall, an end to family separations and a long-term solution for dreamers.
Trump went to Capitol Hill last week to assuage House Republicans' concerns about his support for the bill and didn't give them any clarity.
A few days later, as House Republican leaders were pulling teeth to get people on board with a bill they were kinda, sorta certain Trump would sign, the president tweeted they should just stop trying to do anything on immigration before the November midterm elections.
“Torpedoed by tweet,” tweeted Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), a Trump critic.
Never mind that the bill doesn't have a chance passing the Senate. For moderate Republicans in the House in heavily Hispanic districts, it was politically potent that they were actually trying. Their party's own leader just undermined their argument that the Republican Party wants a solution for dreamers.
Rather than help a divided Congress find a solution, Trump is doing what he does best: doubling down on anti-immigrant sentiment that gives his base reason to cheer him.
He's blaming Democrats for the impending failure of a bill that Republicans are writing, championing and voting on. (That's not to say Democrats are entirely blameless in Congress's larger immigration drama; it's just that Trump is disingenuously blaming the other party for problems he created.)
On Sunday, Trump dropped all pretenses that he wants solutions at the border when he tweeted his support for taking away immigrants' constitutional right to due process.
Smacking down conservative legislation in the House that gives him nearly everything he wants. Manufacturing recent crises at the borders. Attempting to blame Democrats for problems of his own making. Then suggesting the United States kick out immigrants apprehended at the border without due process.
It's pretty clear Trump is using immigration as a political wedge, and it doesn't seem like he has any intention to stop anytime soon.