White House’s new demands for ‘Dreamer’ deal
President Trump this week reversed a tentative deal he’d struck with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation, as the White House issued Congress a list of hard-line immigration demands. In exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA), which would shield 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, the administration said it would insist on complete funding for Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, the hiring of 10,000 new immigration agents, and tougher rules for claiming asylum in the U.S. It also demanded stricter limits on legal immigration, including restricting family-based green cards to children and spouses.
Democratic leaders, who last month signaled they had reached a deal with Trump to grant Dreamers permanent legal status, reacted with alarm, and accused the administration of trying to scuttle formal negotiations before they even begin. They said the new demands clearly reflected the priorities of anti-immigration hawks like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser. “If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so,” Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said.
What the columnists said
“It’s obvious this move is rooted in a desire to placate Trump’s base,” said Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. The president knows full well that Democrats will never agree to “anything even close to this absurd wish list.” But as his agenda falters, Trump is increasingly concerned that “his people” will think he’s a loser, so he’s falling back on the extreme positions that played well during the campaign. “It’s much easier to sink a deal on the Dreamers than to broker one,” said Jonathan Blitzer in New Yorker.com. Even though polling shows that just 1 in 5 Americans wants the Dreamers deported, immigration extremists like Miller are betting that “the mainstream no longer matters.”
“Democrats actually have little leverage over the president on this issue,” said Jonathan Tobin in NationalReview.com. To keep DACA alive, Schumer and Pelosi will have to make serious concessions on border security, which will enrage the many on the Left who believe any restrictions on illegal immigration are racist and unacceptable. That will put Democratic lawmakers in a tricky spot. Helping the Dreamers may be politically popular, but enabling illegal immigrants to bring their entire extended families into the country certainly is not.
“It’s impossible to tell where the president really stands,” said Margaret Hartmann in NYMag.com. Trump has gone from demonizing immigrants to crowing about how much compassion he has for Dreamers, back to threatening to throw them all out if he doesn’t get his wall. Even now, the White House won’t say whether it will veto a bill that doesn’t include its many demands. How exactly is Congress supposed to craft a deal? As we wait to find out, Trump “needlessly toys” with the fate of young immigrants trying to make a life here. ■