Trump supporters like me are understandably nervous. To be clear, we are not upset about the president's willingness to find a deal that would allow the "dreamers" who were brought to this country as children to remain here legally. We support the president's interest in finding a legislative solution to replace the unconstitutional executive action that President Barack Obama imposed with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
What we cannot support is a DACA deal that deals with the dreamers alone, without paying for the wall and making other efforts to enforce and strengthen immigration laws. Accepting a dreamers-only deal would enrage and alienate the president's base. Republican voters bristle at being compelled to negotiate for enforcement of existing immigration laws or border protections. These are basic responsibilities of government — not bargaining chips.
Democrats fail to understand this and as a result are making a mistake by tying a DACA deal to the continuing resolution that funds the government. Democrats think they are holding aces: Give us DACA or face a government shutdown. But Trump wins if Democrats force a shutdown for this reason — and he knows it even if they don't.
Even so, no one wants a shutdown, and both sides have something to gain from a DACA deal. Republican policy must be guided by unwavering commitment to the rule of law, something a bipartisan consensus has agreed to ignore on immigration for decades, along with a commitment to protect the political and economic interests of U.S. citizens above those of noncitizens. Those guarantees are a big part of what makes citizenship valuable in the first place.
The bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is a good place to start. It includes all the elements that are essential for both Republicans and Democrats. The basics are this: DACA recipients will receive immunity for prior immigration violations and a renewable, non-immigrant visa that will allow them legally to live, work and attend school in this country. This is a big improvement over the current arrangement, which can be changed by unilateral executive action. In exchange, Democrats will agree to full funding of the border wall, an end to chain migration, reallocation of diversity lottery visas to the H-1B program, and implementation of the E-Verify system for employers.
Note that this measure does not address other big issues, such as how to deal with the other 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to reside in the United States or how to reform our legal immigration system. But it would represent a positive first step.
The Goodlatte bill is a fair representation of what the president promised and what his supporters expect. It's also good policy in that it fixes the current problem and helps ensure that another generation of minors is not brought to the country illegally and placed in the same jeopardy.
If the president were to break faith with his voters on this signature issue, it would be more consequential than when President George H.W. Bush infamously renounced his "Read my lips: no new taxes" pledge in the 1990s. It would strike at one of the basic tenets of Trump's presidency and set the stage for a low-energy election for Republicans, leading to a loss of the House, perhaps a loss of the Senate and everything that portends. And Trump would have no one to blame but himself.