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Yesterday, the president offered an olive branch to the in-limbo Dreamers—who are, I should note at the outset—in limbo because Trump ended the program that protected them. Not only would he give the current Dreamers a path to citizenship, but he would also give that opportunity to those people who were eligible for DACA but never signed up, about 1.8 million undocumented immigrants. Of course, Trump being Trump, there’s a catch: in exchange, he wants to slash legal immigration and $25 billion for a border wall.
WHAT IT MEANS:
- WaPo: “But in a sign of how fraught the prospects for an immigration deal remain, the proposal was met with disdain from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as well as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In addition to the citizenship path that would take up to 12 years, the White House framework includes a $25 billion ‘trust fund’ for a border wall and additional security upgrades on the southwestern and northern U.S. borders. And the president is proposing terminating the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for permanent legal residency ‘green cards’ for parents and siblings, limiting the family visas to spouses and minor children. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, called the deal a ‘ransom’ in pursuit of an ‘anti-immigrant wish list.’ Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), one of the most outspoken immigrant advocates on Capitol Hill, said the plan ‘doesn’t pass the laugh test.’ ‘It would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America,’ he said, ‘because both a wall and the statue would be equally offensive and equally ineffective, and both would express Trump’s deeply held suspicion of Latinos.’”
- Hardline Republicans, meanwhile, are fine with adding Dreamers, if that helps them slash legal immigration.
- “The officials said that the president hopes McConnell will bring a bill based on the framework to the floor the week of Feb. 6, just days before a Feb. 8 deadline for a must-pass spending bill to keep the government open. Many Democrats and some Republicans said they will not support a long-term spending bill without an immigration deal. … ‘This is kind of a bottom line,’ said one senior administration official who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a proposal that had not been made public. ‘This is the president’s position. Then it goes to the Hill, and they digest it and develop a bill they think can pass. … If it’s realistic, he’ll sign it. If not, he won’t.’”
- The House will want to take it to the right; but in the Senate, where passage will require sixty votes and another government shutdown looms, “the White House proposal is likely to be treated in the Senate as a starting point in the debate, not the bottom line.”
- From the Times: “But the new plan—drafted by Stephen Miller, the president’s hard-line domestic policy adviser, and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff—was immediately rejected by Democrats, immigration advocates and some Republicans, with some describing it as nothing but an attempt to rid the country of immigrants and shut the nation’s borders. Republican and Democratic senators are working on a narrower immigration plan of their own. They hope that if it can pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan majority, it will put pressure on the House—where attempts at immigration overhauls have died in recent years—to pass the legislation as well.”
- “Members of both parties said that legislation would have a better chance of passing if it focused on legal status for DACA recipients without a dramatic crackdown on illegal immigrants or new restrictions on legal immigration for extended family members.”
- The Breitbart crew isn’t happy about this [Slate]: “Not all of the details of the Trump immigration plan are known as of yet, but Breitbart appeared to be displeased with what it saw and led with a story titled: ‘Don’s Amnesty Bonanza.’ The site called in a dial-a-quote from Kansas Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach, who told Breitbart: ‘Expanding the pool of amnesty recipients to aliens beyond those who have already obtained DACA is an extremely bad idea.’”
Ahead of the shutdown, Democrats seemed agreeable to funding Trump’s border wall in exchange for protecting Dreamers. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has since said the wall is “off the table,” but there’s no real reason to think that’s actually the case. Democrats seem to have coalesced around the idea that, yeah, the wall is dumb and pointless, but if it protects Dreamers, so be it. The real sticking point, then, is the cuts to legal immigration, where the president has gone hard right.
- NBC: “On legal immigration, though, the proposal puts them miles apart. It reflects a fundamental and growing ideological divide between Democrats and many Republicans who view immigration as a net good and Trump and his allies, who have depicted immigrants as an unwanted burden and threatening presence.”
- Those legal immigration restrictions would include an end to the diversity visa lottery and family immigration for siblings and parents of immigrants already in the U.S. Per NBC: “immigration advocates say the long-term effects are likely similar to hardline proposals in the House and Senate that would reduce overall immigration by 40 to 50 percent.”
- “Cristina Jimenez, co-founder of Dreamer advocacy group United We Dream, rejected the White House's proposal as a ‘nativist wish list’ even as it moved the administration closer to activists' demands for a path to citizenship. Republicans and Democrats working on an immigration deal have warned that taking up legal immigration and other issues was likely a dealbreaker. The Trump proposal threatens to blow up those negotiations just as they begin.”
- The bottom line: Here again, Dreamers are pawns in a larger game, the nativists’ efforts to gut legal immigration. Democrats aren’t likely to go for it, which means that unless the bipartisan efforts in the Senate bear fruit, we’re likely headed for another shutdown—and another battle of wills: Republicans will try to blame Democrats if nothing happens and Dreamers start getting deported. Will Democrats cave, or use the leverage the shutdown provides to force Trump back to the center?