Two caveats for any DACA/DREAM poll released today or tomorrow. One: The “Trump effect” isn’t priced in yet. News swirled in political media the last few days that the president was leaning towards ending DACA, but not until this morning, with Jeff Sessions’s announcement, did the story really explode. Now that the Trump brand is emblazoned on the decision to end the program, some Democratic fencesitters will recoil from it and some Republican fencesitters will embrace it. Where that will leave the “final” numbers on all this, no one knows yet.
Two: A lot depends on how a pollster words its question here. A question about illegals who came here “as children, through no fault of their own” will obviously elicit more sympathetic responses to DACA than a question emphasizing the program’s dubious constitutionality and the competition between young Americans and young DREAMers for jobs. Morning Consult took the minimalist approach, noting that DREAMers were kids when they were brought here by illegal-immigrant parents but otherwise leaving it at that. The results were … decisive:
The first bar in each group represents the share who would allow DREAMers to become full U.S. citizens. The second bar represents people who don’t want to see full citizenship but are nonetheless okay with DREAMers remaining as permanent legal residents. The third bar is the pro-deportation share. Even among Republicans, 69 percent are prepared to let DREAMers stay with some form of legal status. Across the public generally, 58 percent are prepared to grant them citizenship while another 18 percent would grant them green cards — 76 percent in all. Just 15 percent would send DREAMers packing. No wonder purple-state Republicans like Cory Gardner are already calling for Congress to pass a DREAM Act.
YouGov published a poll on DREAMers today as well. Note the difference in the wording of the question below. For starters, they refer specifically to the DACA program, not to more general efforts to legalize DREAMers, as Morning Consult did. They also include more overtly sympathetic language, emphasizing that DREAMers came here at a “very young age” and are “law-abiding.” Result:
By a two-to-one margin, 55/27, the public favors DACA. Even Republicans narrowly favor it on balance, 43/40, despite its pedigree as one of Obama’s two notorious executive amnesties. GOPers do, of course, support Trump’s decision to end the program, splitting 30/49 between keeping it going and ending it, but they’re in the minority overall. Americans generally support keeping it, 48/29. That’s the Ryan/McConnell nightmare in a nutshell. If they pass something to legalize DREAMers, they risk pissing off the GOP voters whom they need next fall. (Trump voters in particular strongly support ending DACA, with 57 percent in favor.) If they pass nothing, they risk pissing off everyone else.
David Frum wonders why the hell this party would lead its immigration charge against the most sympathetic class of illegals when it has strong arguments against unchecked illegal immigration on so many other fronts — lax workplace enforcement, a sclerotic deportation system, chain migration, and so on. Trump should have pushed Tom Cotton’s and David Perdue’s RAISE Act, argues Frum, and made a DREAM amnesty a pot sweetener for that bill. If Schumer ended up saying no, as he surely would have, turning down legalization for DREAMers would have made his refusal that much more politically painful for him. Instead the GOP’s fighting this battle on the terrain most favorable to liberals:
Democrats have no incentive to make his deal—and every incentive to thwart it. If Santa asked Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer what they would like most for Christmas this year (Trump is president now, so we can say the word “Christmas” again), they might reply: “Some spectacular deportations of people brought to the United States sometime during the 2018 congressional cycle would be perfect.” Trump’s call on Congress to do something—who knows or cares what?—about DACA by spring of 2018 is a formula to unite Democrats, split Republicans, and achieve nothing. It puts the immigration spotlight on precisely the GOP coalition’s weakest point, in the misplaced hope of getting ungettable votes for the GOP’s dumbest idea…
Trump will have indelibly branded the Republican Party as the anti-immigrant party without making any substantial or lasting change in immigration policy.
Frum thinks Trump has been blinded by his short-sighted obsession with the wall and the foolish hope that Schumer will do a wall-for-DREAMers trade straight up. There’s some truth to that, but remember, there’s every reason to believe that Trump would have quietly kept DACA going if not for the lawsuit threat from Republican AGs against the program. He’s not gung ho for this fight, wall or no wall. It’s the populists in his own party who maneuvered him into it, fooled by Trump’s anti-DACA attacks as a candidate into believing that he was eager to end this program ASAP.
Go read Marco Rubio’s statement on Trump’s DACA decision, the key bit of which comes at the very end. Trump must lead, Rubio warns, by telling Congress specifically up front what he will or won’t sign. Is a “clean” DREAM Act an absolute no-go, as the White House suggested today, in which case Congress shouldn’t bother? Or will he grit his teeth and sign it if Congress puts that bill together, which shouldn’t be too hard? Trump wants to punt. Rubio and the rest of Congress won’t let him.
Exit question: What does this mean? If Congress doesn’t pass something in six months, he … won’t guarantee that he’ll end the program? That senior advisor who told Politico that Trump is bluffing may have been right.