PRESIDENT TRUMP has laid out a framework for immigration reform. It can't be the final answer, but it contains the elements of an imaginable deal. Legislators who want to get to yes should seize on those elements and start working.
What is imaginable is a smaller-scale deal: safe harbor for the "dreamers" in exchange for Mr. Trump's wall. That's not a deal we love, for two reasons. One is that everyone, including Mr. Trump, claims to support a pathway to citizenship for the dreamers, the undocumented immigrants who were brought here as young children through no fault of their own. Why should they be a bargaining chip at all?
The other is that the wall would be a waste of money as well as an unfortunate symbol of U.S. truculence. Immigrants are no longer spilling over the U.S.-Mexican border; to the extent border security remains an issue, it would be better served by a combination of fencing and surveillance.
But Mr. Trump promised a wall, and politically he feels the need to deliver. If that's what it takes to secure citizenship for the dreamers, it is more than worth the price.
Which is why Congress should welcome Mr. Trump's proffer of a 10- to 12-year pathway to citizenship for the estimated 1.8 million undocumented young immigrants enrolled in or potentially eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that shielded them from deportation. The time horizon is reasonable. The number is more generous than some proposals, which were limited to the 690,000 who were enrolled in the program when Mr. Trump announced its end. A deal would provide security and a future for a promising class of young immigrants whose lives might otherwise be ruined.
In return, Mr. Trump is asking too much and overplaying his hand. In addition to a $25 billion "trust fund" for hundreds of miles of new wall and other border security measures, Mr. Trump wants a sharp contraction in family-based immigration, the mechanism by which most legal immigrants entered the United States for the past half-century; an end to the visa lottery that admits 50,000 immigrants annually from countries underrepresented in U.S. immigration; and a massive enforcement crackdown that would target not only undocumented immigrants who are long-term residents of this country, but also asylum seekers, including children, who are fleeing violence and oppression.
Congress should schedule all those proposals for debate this spring, along with a pathway to legality for 11 million illegal immigrants, plus protections for the more than 200,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans whose temporary protected status has been revoked by the administration.
But in the next 10 days, it should do something simple and constructive: dreamers for the wall.
Read more on this topic: