Is the Trump administration laying the internal groundwork for an immigration reform package? According to McClatchy, a compromise is taking shape under which the president would offer Democrats a codified amnesty for so-called "DREAMers" in exchange for the construction of his oft-touted border wall. The report says that Trump's son-in-law and daughter favor the plan, with several key advisers warming to it as well -- including Vice President Pence and HR McMaster:
White House officials want Trump to strike an ambitious deal with Congress that offers Dreamers protection in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, according to a half-dozen people familiar with situation, most involved with the negotiations. The group includes former and current White House chiefs of staff, Reince Priebus and John Kelly, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as presidential advisers, they said. Others who have not been as vocal publicly about their stance but are thought to agree include Vice President Mike Pence, who as a congressman worked on a failed immigration deal that called for citizenship, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a Democrat who serves as director of the National Economic Council.
Other members of the administration -- including Attorney General Sessions and Stephen Miller -- are said to oppose the idea. Polling suggests that most Republicans, including most Trump supporters, are in favor of legitimizing President Obama's unilateral, legally-dubious 'DREAM' maneuver (DACA) by enshrining it as law. Indeed, back in June, the Trump administration canceled Obama's expanded, unpopular, and patently illegal amnesty (DAPA) while preserving DACA, at least temporarily. This marked a policy reversal for Trump, who explained his (totally predictable) change of heart on the issue at the time:
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly said he would end the deferred deportation policy, calling it “amnesty” and an abuse of the president’s powers. But after inauguration, he not only failed to act but pledged to treat Dreamers with “great heart.” “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me,” he said in February. “To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids, in many cases not in all cases. In some of the cases they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly.”...The administration has continued to allow Dreamers to apply for the program and even renew their permits — at nearly the rate of the Obama administration — much to the dismay of some of his own supporters who want him to make good on his campaign promise.
On paper, offering Democrats the formalization of DACA in return for concessions on immigration enforcement measures is a reasonable gambit. But if the White House believes Democratic leadership will go for it, they're -- well -- dreaming. Democrats have moved hard left on immigration, in service of both their identity politics obsession and their zeal to thwart Trump on his signature campaign issue. Their "resistance" base will angrily demand that they stop at nothing to prevent the president from fulfilling his most memorable electoral promise: Building the wall. Even if Trump offered them a clean trade -- DACA for the wall -- Democrats would almost certainly rebuff the proposal. Asking them to sign on to additional immigration enforcement items and to curtail legal immigration (even if some Trump-endorsed policies garner wide support) will be back-handed away as a non-starter. Democrats aren't willing to do anything that might be construed as delivering a "win" to Trump at the expense of their hardcore voters.
There's another element to this equation, too. Democrats don't view making the DREAM Act permanent as a political win because they believe (a) they've already won the PR and policy battle on this front, and (b) it's probably more valuable to them as a plausibly "live" issue. The fact that Trump extended Obama's executive foray means that it's now a fact of life in Washington, so they see little practical risk that DREAMers' legal status will be revoked in the future. Meanwhile, using DREAMers as a talking point on immigration, and raising the specter of what those heartless Republicans might do to those poor kids, is a strong demagogic temptation. From a cynical perspective, taking the issue off the table (with a Republican president getting credit, no less) would be something of a lose-lose for Democrats -- especially if they help Trump implement even more of his agenda in the process. That's why you're seeing immediate, faux-indignant rejections like this from Democratic leaders:
Please recall that Nancy and friends did exactly nothing to legalize DREAMers through the legislative process when they controlled everything in Washington, not too long ago. Doing so would have been a layup; many Republicans, terrified by Obama's sweeping victory coalition, would have been champing at the bit to sign onto a politically-palatable, 'small ball' immigration reform item. Yet Pelosi didn't act. A few years later, after Republicans had made major electoral gains, Obama allegedly sought to undermine Marco Rubio's DREAM Act efforts, further suggesting that Democrats prefer to exploit DREAMers as political pawns, rather than genuinely resolve their status. That's what makes Pelosi's crocodile tears about "treating children as bargaining chips" so unconvincing. There's a serious case to be made that she wants them to feel like vulnerable potential bargaining chips in perpetuity, in order to help Democrats shore up certain voting constituencies and win elections. Where does that fall on the scale of "reprehensibility"? I'll leave you with another issue on which Pelosi never lifted a finger when she was in power:
So very "reprehensible," in fact (her staff might want to buy her a thesaurus if she uses that word again this month), that she did absolutely nothing about it throughout her reign. By the way, Pelosi's base may love this posturing, but the public does not.