President Donald Trump is taking the wrong approach to wheeling and dealing with Democrats over amnesty for illegal immigrants brought to America as children, according to several enforcement hawks.
Some hard-liners prefer no deal at all. They argue Trump simply should follow through on his commitment to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Others who are open to letting the 690,000 DACA recipients stay argue that Trump should focus on narrowing the scope of an amnesty bill and including provisions to mitigate the impact.
“Giving away DACA in exchange for token enforcement promises would be giving away the farm for free,” said Rob Law, government relations director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Yet, that appears to be exactly where Trump is headed after dining with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the White House on Wednesday. The Democratic duo released a statement saying they had agreed on the framework of a deal to grant amnesty in exchange for unspecified border security measures — but not a border wall.
Trump backed away from that on Thursday.
“We’ll only do it if we have extreme security … and ultimately, we have to have the wall,” he said in Florida as he was touring the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. “If we don’t have the wall, we’re doing nothing.”
Trump suggested at one point that border wall funding did not have to be tied specifically to a DACA deal but would have to come eventually.
“They cannot obstruct the wall,” he said. “The wall, to me, is vital. If I don’t get the wall, then we will become the obstructionists.”
“The two are not interchangeable. Anyone who did not qualify for DACA should not even be in the conversation.”
Trump also bristled at the suggestion that it was “amnesty” to pass a law allowing DACA recipients to stay in the United States permanently.
“No, we’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty,” he said. “We’re looking at allowing people to stay here. We’re working with everybody. Republicans. We’re working with Democrats.”
The mixed messages left Republicans on Capitol Hill confused. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters that Republican lawmakers still have not reached consensus on the issue among themselves. He also said Trump could not make a deal without consent of the majority party in Congress.
“It’s right and proper that the president talk with the other party. These were discussions, not negotiations,” he said. “There wasn’t an agreement … The president wasn’t negotiating a deal last night. The president was talking to Democratic leaders to get their perspectives.”
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told LifeZette that Trump has a tendency to leave people with misleading impressions of his intent.
“Trump does this kind of thing a lot, tells people what they want to hear,” he said.
If Congress agrees to hand out permanent residency, it should be limited to the current DACA enrollees and perhaps even narrower, said FAIR’s Law. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act favored by Democrats is far broader and would cover many more people, he said.
“The two are not interchangeable,” he said. “Anyone who did not qualify for DACA should not even be in the conversation.”
Krikorian said Trump ought to also demand at least making mandatory the E-Verify system that screens potential hires to determine whether they are authorized to work legally. He said Congress also ought to curtail family-sponsored immigration. Dreamers, beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, who receive amnesty under current rules would be able to sponsor extended relatives living in foreign countries.
Potentially, even dreamers’ illegal immigrant parents — who were responsible for the illegal immigration in the first place — could become legal residents.
Typically, any illegal immigrant who has been in the United States for more than a year would have to return home for 10 years before becoming eligible to immigrate. But Krikorian said there are ways around that. The requirement can be waived if an illegal immigrant’s absence would cause an extreme hardship for an American or a legal permanent resident.
“This would be in the future,” he said. “How many [hardship waivers] do you think a President Kamala Harris [who now is a Democratic senator from California] administration would grant?”
Law said Trump should tie DACA amnesty not only to E-Verity but also to the proposed Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which would cut legal immigration; and the proposed Davis-Oliver Act, a comprehensive expansion of immigration-enforcement powers.
If Trump were to get behind Schumer-Pelosi amnesty, Law said, it would be difficult to stop.
“Establishment Republicans would gladly get on board … Leadership has to come from the president,” he said.
(photo credit, homepage image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)