Now that Democrats have fled from their ill-fated Schumer Shutdown, tail between their legs, attention now shifts to the ongoing talks over a possible DACA agreement on immigration. Lawmakers find themselves up against two deadlines: (1) The March cutoff established by the Trump administration after the president announced his cancellation of his predecessor's legally-dubious executive amnesty, and (2) the February 8 time limit just set by Mitch McConnell, after which he'll move to the introduction of bills and amendments on various legislative solutions to the DREAMer situation. As various 'gangs' and working groups on Capitol Hill power through their negotiations, it's important to highlight that during the brief shutdown, two notable Democrats offered what appeared to be very significant concessions on border security. The Senate Minority Leader apparently put Trump's prized border wall on the table as part of a potential deal:
Schumer himself confirmed at least a version of this, again invoking his apparent offer in what amounted to a concession speech on the failed shutdown he engineered: "My recent offer to the president was a generous one. I put his signature campaign issue on the table in exchange for DACA, and still he turned away." The wall is now very much in the mix. Given the fanaticism of his left-wing "resistance" base, I'll admit that I was slightly surprised to hear the most powerful Democrat in Congress openly considering helping the president fulfill his most famous campaign pledge, which was widely loathed and ridiculed by the Left. But I was more than slightly surprised by this:
Gutierrez represents the extreme left flank of his party on immigration. He stated on the record that as a sitting Congressman representing US citizens, his "only loyalty" is "to the immigrant community." If he's signaling that Trump's wall is an acceptable element of a DREAMer compact, Republicans should accept nothing less. As someone who favors normalizing DREAMers' legal status, it's also essential to enact serious enforcement mechanisms to mitigate future illegal immigration, especially as the magnet effect grows more powerful after the enactment of a major amnesty (which is not a hypothetical scenario). The completion of a physical barrier along 700 miles of the southern border -- as requested by the White House and as agreed to by Senate Democrats in 2013 -- is one component of enforcement. It should not be the only one, although Republicans should not get too greedy. There is strong public support for increased border security, but even stronger support for a DACA-style law. That's a political reality.
Another political reality is that as Democrats think about future forays into "comprehensive" reforms beyond the discrete DREAM issue (Trump is talking that up, too), they'll want to strategically hang on to some major concessions for hypothetical bargaining yet to come. It's fair to give them some breathing room on this front, so long as they agree to meaningful and serious improvements in a DACA deal. But should the GOP be wary of Democrats' softening over the wall? National Review's Rich Lowry thinks so:
Even if everyone in Washington has the best of intentions, a Wall is unlikely to be built anytime soon, given the the logistical, legal, and bureaucratic challenges. And Democrats don’t have good intentions. If they take back Congress, surely one of their first priorities will be to defund and stop whatever Wall has been authorized. Also, border security, properly considered, is about much more than the Wall — it requires all sorts of resources and authorities to make sure that people who are caught at the border don’t make it into the country anyway. Are Democrats going to accede to those? Finally, this isn’t a big departure for immigration doves — they were also willing to throw money, about $30 billion, at the border to sweeten up the Gang of Eight bill. They are in a position now where they can make a theatrical concession on the border to try to get the kind of deal that restrictionists have always opposed — an immediate amnesty, for border security later.
Fair enough, but there are always risks with compromises. If a bipartisan accord precipitates the authorization and funding of a border wall as part of a DACA agreement, reversing that action would be easier said than done. Plus, the president is a construction-minded guy. If there's anything he'll be sure to fast-track and stay on top of, it's his oft-promised wall. So, yes, it's partially symbolic. Yes, it will need to be paired with some other security elements. And yes, it won't be completed overnight. But if the GOP can get Democrats to approve and pay for Trump's wall, it would look like extreme intransigence and goalpost-shifting to demur. Take the win.
UPDATE - Schumer says he's yanking his offer to fund the wall. For now, at least, with his hardcore partisans irate at him. But that policy horse is out of the barn. It should be a baseline for negotiations.