Trump: We're going to work something out on DREAMers that'll make people happy

I … don’t think he means deportation.

As for the people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as youths and now have work visas under Obama, Trump did not back off his pledge to end Obama’s executive orders. But he made clear he would like to find some future accommodation for them. “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” he says, showing a sympathy for young migrants that was often absent during the campaign. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Let’s flash back to 2013, to a meeting Trump held with representatives of the Hispanic Heritage Awards to help promote his beauty pageants. Three DREAMers attended. The way they tell it, Trump was sympathetic:

Jose Machado spoke about how his mom was deported when he was 15 years old. Diego Sanchez talked about how he was trying to go to law school and struggling to come up with ways to pay for it…

Trump said he knew the work of undocumented people is what makes his golf courses and hotels great.

“At the end of the day, what we’re looking at is a value proposition for America,” Tijerino said to Trump at the end of the meeting, referring to immigration legislation.

“You’ve convinced me,” Trump said to the delight of the activists in the room.

Was he BSing them in order to advance his business interests or did they really convince him? We’ll find out soon. If you missed this post last week, read it now for quickie background on efforts to legalize DREAMers that are already afoot in the Senate, thanks to Lindsey Graham. They’re the pressure point on immigration at the moment because the feds have built a database of 700,000+ names, addresses, and fingerprints of young illegals under Obama’s DACA amnesty. The DREAMers gave that information to the feds willingly when enrolling in the program, in the expectation that it would guarantee their legal status; now Trump could, if he wanted, hand that same database to Jeff Sessions to use in tracking them down and deporting them. They are, in other words, in “never-never land” at the moment, just as Trump describes it. An obvious way to keep his promise to rescind Obama’s executive amnesties while solving the uncertainty over DREAMers would be to pursue a legislative compromise in which legal status for them is traded for more security at the border. An old-fashioned “deal,” just as Trump prefers, but not a comprehensive one.

Would his base go for that? Yeah, almost certainly. Here’s what turned up in a 2012 poll of Americans on what to do with DREAMers:

The survey also tested attitudes toward dealing with young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Asked what should be done with young people brought here illegally who are attending college or have enlisted in the military, a 49 percent plurality agreed that Congress should allow them to remain in the country “and guarantee them that they can become American citizens if they complete their studies or military service.” Another 35 percent said that Washington should instead allow them to remain here and “apply for citizenship … but not guarantee them that they can become American citizens.”

The question did not identify the partisan sponsors, but the first option summarizes the Democrats’ existing Dream Act, and the second, the alternative that Republican star Rubio is drafting. Democrats strongly preferred the first option, while independents did so narrowly, and Republicans split almost evenly between the two. Hispanics heavily preferred the Democratic option, which also drew support from a slight majority of African-Americans and a narrow plurality of whites. Only one-in-10 of those polled (and even just one-in-seven Republicans) said that those young people should not be allowed to remain here.

That’s a combined 84 percent who thought that DREAMers should be allowed to stay and at least apply for citizenship. This much more recent poll from Pew, which I flagged in the post on Graham’s bill, is also worth noting again:


That question dealt with legalization, not citizenship, but it also covered all illegals, not just the special case of young illegals brought here by their parents. Even so, a solid majority of Trumpers support letting them stay. The issue reminds me a bit of the “surprising” poll results last night on whether the free market has been failing Americans. Republicans were much more likely to say so than Democrats, which isn’t what you’d expect given the conventional wisdom about what the two parties believe — but it is what you’d expect if you’ve followed the polling on free trade over the last few years, which showed what the parties really do believe.

Same with immigration, really. Trumpers are certainly more restrictionist than Democrats, especially when it comes to building the wall, but the evidence that they’ll be hardliners in demanding mass deportation is soft. Especially if Trump starts talking in public about DREAMers as sympathetically as he did in the interview above. Obama used to complain that many on the right secretly agree with his policies but that they couldn’t bring themselves to say so publicly because they lacked a “permission structure” that would allow them to do so. If a Republican backbencher came out in favor of a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill or a comprehensive immigration reform plan, he’d be ripped to shreds on Fox News, conservative talk radio, conservative print media, and so on. What you’re about to see in the Trump era, with a Republican president who enjoys more populist cred than the old guardians of Republican orthodoxy do but who’s also much further left than they are, is what happens when GOPers across the country suddenly find themselves operating with a new “permission structure.” It’s okay to support trillion-dollar stimulus bills now. Trump does! It might be okay to publicly support legalizing DREAMers as a humane solution to an intractable problem. Trump might! There’ll still be a permission structure — every ideological group has one — but instead of ideological orthodoxy defining the bounds, Trump’s own policy preferences will define it, by and large. As long as he doesn’t agree to a DREAM amnesty in exchange for nothing, which would damage his credibility as a negotiator, he can sell it to the right without a problem.