A few weeks ago Donald Trump appeared to be siding with the Democrats on DACA, agreeing to pass the DREAM Act that would make that policy official without any serious demands like funding for the border wall. That didn’t last long. Now he’s making demands that may scuttle the bill.
The administration’s wish list includes the funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors and curbs on federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” according to a document distributed to Congress and obtained by The Washington Post.
The demands were quickly denounced by Democratic leaders in Congress who had hoped to forge a deal with President Trump to protect younger immigrants, known as “dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Trump announced plans last month to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era program that had provided two-year work permits to the dreamers that Trump called “unconstitutional.”
About 690,000 immigrants are enrolled in DACA, but their work permits are set to begin expiring in March. Trump had met last month with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and agreed to try to strike a deal, worrying immigration hawks who feared that Trump would support a bill that would allow dreamers to gain full legal status without asking for significant border security measures in return.The list released by the administration, however, would represent a major tightening of immigration laws. Cuts to legal immigration also are included. And, while Democrats have called for a path to citizenship for all dreamers, a group estimated at more than 1.5 million, a White House aide said Sunday night the administration is “not interested in granting a path to citizenship” in a deal to preserve the DACA program.
Frankly, I was shocked that he agreed to passing a bill without such measures the first time, so I’m certainly not surprised that he’s going back on that now. As a sheer matter of political tactics, he has leverage here and he’s going to use it. Whether the Democrats will agree to go along with all or most of those demands remains to be seen. I suspect there will be two different versions of the bill, one that has more appeal to Republicans and one that appeals to Democrats. If they can’t pass the more conservative version, Trump will then shift to supporting the more moderate one and hope to pass a bill with majority Democratic support and a handful of Republicans.
More than anything, I’m quite sure, he wants a win. On anything. At this point he has not signed a single piece of meaningful legislation other than the Russia sanctions bill, which he was forced to sign with a metaphorical gun to his head.