Despite a fairly obvious path to compromise, bipartisan DACA negotiations on Capitol Hill have gone nowhere, with four different immigration bills failing in the Senate last month. The president's deadline has come and gone, leaving the Obama-era executive amnesty in legal and practical limbo. As March 5th approached, we wrote about the possibility of a can-kicking deal that would formally extend DACA for some period of time, in exchange for undetermined enforcement concessions. President Trump has since seen his (pretty reasonable, in my view) "four pillars" approach fall well short of even a simple majority in Congress' upper chamber, with another budget deadline (March 23) fast approaching. He's now sounding more open to a non-permanent solution:
White House officials have told key Republican leaders on Capitol Hill that President Trump is open to cutting a deal in an upcoming spending bill to protect young immigrants from deportation in exchange for border wall funding, according to four GOP officials briefed on the talks. The offer could represent a significant shift for Trump, who in January insisted on much broader immigration restrictions in exchange for any protections for “dreamers” — the young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, some of whom have been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump canceled in September. Now, with the DACA cancellation tied up in the courts and no clear path for stand-alone immigration legislation, the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said Trump is warming to a simpler deal that would allow his administration to quickly start work on a U.S.-Mexico border wall — a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign.
One proposal under consideration is a so-called "three-for-three" exchange, featuring a three-year DACA program coupled with three years' worth of funding for border wall construction. The White House has publicly rejected this idea, creating some confusion about whether the president has actually shifted his position. Some members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are sounding skeptical that a temporary bargain is viable -- via the Washington Post:
News of the White House offer generated a mixed reaction from lawmakers of both parties Wednesday. “With everything else that’s going on, I just don’t see . . . the DACA issue being resolved in the next week,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who has backed broader immigration cutbacks. A key Senate Democrat, Robert Menendez (N.J.), was similarly skeptical: “I’m not thrilled about including anything for a temporary fix.” But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said he was open to a short-term deal: “If the president supports that, I certainly won’t object.” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), who had emerged as the Democrats’ key negotiator on immigration, said a Trump offer could not be discounted entirely...
The Post reports that a potential non-permanent compromise, "that Trump is now willing to explore are much narrower, said the officials familiar with the offer: a two- or three-year extension of the DACA program, which now protects about 690,000 immigrants, coupled with an unspecified amount of border wall funding — hewing to a framework that some GOP moderates explored in the aftermath of February’s failed Senate votes." The piece adds that if such an outline were adopted, there would be political ramifications to the resulting timeline: "A three-year DACA extension could essentially take immigration off the congressional agenda until after the 2020 presidential election by removing the threat of deportation for the young immigrants covered by the program." The upside to this plan would be a few more years of relative certainty and security for so-called DREAMers, while the Trump administration could begin construction (a "head start," writes Ed Morrissey) on a border wall the president repeatedly promised to voters as a candidate. Meanwhile, this is how Trump spent some of his week:
If we don’t have a wall system, we’re not going to have a country. Congress must fund the BORDER WALL & prohibit grants to sanctuary jurisdictions that threaten the security of our country & the people of our country. We must enforce our laws & protect our people! #BuildTheWall pic.twitter.com/NGqNueukvj— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
As we've mentioned previously, there is plenty of room for consensus, based on public opinion polling. Many core tenets of Trump's DACA plan enjoy wide support, from enhanced border security, to serious reforms to the "diversity visa lottery," to shifting away from chain migration to a British or Canadian-style merit-based system. Meanwhile, conservative support for a DREAM Act/border wall agreement is very strong:
The pieces for a (not terribly complex) deal are all in place, yet Official Washington remains paralyzed and consumed with posturing and infighting on both sides of the aisle.