Hot new idea to end the shutdown: A path to green cards for 700,000 DREAMers

Did Jared eat paint chips as a kid?

No, no, that’s unfair. I can’t believe even Kushner would seriously entertain this proposal at this particular moment. It must be Fake News™.

A new immigration idea has been circulating over the past 24 hours at senior levels inside the White House and on Capitol Hill: Give a path to green cards to the 700,000 current DACA recipients, three sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

The state of play: Republican senators, including James Lankford of Oklahoma, have advocated for this idea. And Jared Kushner has relayed the idea to his colleagues in the White House as a possible way to break the congressional deadlock…

“If you throw green cards onto the table, this whole coalition will fall over on the right,” [an anonymous Republican] senator told Axios on Tuesday night. “If you start putting citizenship on the table in any meaningful way, Democrats will have to give more, and they’re not ready to give more.”

Another source told Axios that Kushner isn’t pushing the plan aggressively, just hearing out people on the Hill about potential deals. So: What’s wrong with a “DREAM for wall” bargain now when various people have been floating that as a potential compromise for the past two years? Two things. One is that the last time Trump put amnesty for DREAMers on the table he wanted way more than $5 billion in return. His ask was full funding for the wall — $25 billion — plus some rollbacks to legal immigration as prescribed in Tom Cotton’s RAISE Act. To offer a “DREAM for wall” swap now would be tantamount to caving on that original demand.

Yes, granted, green cards for DREAMers (the new proposal being considered by Jared) isn’t exactly the same as the full DREAM amnesty floated last year. In theory the new offer would entitle DREAM candidates to permanent residency, not full citizenship. In practice, of course, that permanent residency will be converted legislatively into full citizenship in due time — if not by Democrats when they control government once again then sooner, by a bipartisan coalition in Congress.

The second problem is that the political dynamics of a month-long standoff with Democrats simply won’t allow for this type of offer now. It’d have been interesting if the shutdown had begun with Trump offering green cards to DREAMers for wall funding. Coulterites would have freaked out but loyalists like Hannity probably would have talked themselves into accepting it, notwithstanding that it would have amounted to a climbdown from last year’s demand. Then Trump could have stood firm on his offer and forced Pelosi to explain to the country why a Republican president’s proposal to partially resolve the longstanding DREAM conundrum was a nonstarter. It would have created some pressure among DREAM advocates for her to take the deal. And it would have highlighted the Democrats’ true motive in all this — spite, to deny him the wall at all costs — to everyone outside Pelosi’s base.

As it is, though, after proposing a modest three-year extension of legal residency to DACA recipients last weekend, he can’t now increase his offer by tossing green cards on the table. It would look terribly weak. Having spent a solid month trying to demonstrate his resolve to reduce illegal immigration, it would be comically pathetic to end it with broad new amnesty provisions for illegals who are already here. The Coulter contingent will be mad no matter how this ends but the Hannity contingent won’t be mad unless Trump loses face. Piling more and more amnesty into his offer to get Dems to take a deal, any deal, to spare him further political pain would mean losing face.

Which is why, I assume, the Emerson poll that Ed blogged earlier found that proposals involving concessions to DREAMers in exchange for wall funding got less popular as the concessions became more generous. Some 45 percent would accept Trump’s offer of a three-year moratorium on deporting DACA recipients in exchange for a downpayment on the wall. Increase the offer to full citizenship for DREAMers and support drops to 34 percent, though, no doubt due to a collapse among Republicans. Trump’s facing a dilemma of his own making now: He needs a way out of this standoff before he bleeds any more approval among the wider public (and before any of the other dozens of issues he’s momentarily neglecting come back to bite him), but if he takes a way out that annoys his base, he might end up doing more damage to his support than he’s doing by keeping the shutdown going. That’s why, I’m convinced, he’ll declare a national emergency eventually and re-open the government while the wall battle moves to court. It’s the only way to square that circle.

In lieu of an exit question, read WaPo’s report today on Trump’s style of “negotiating” — pick a fight, issue a threat, maybe follow through (e.g., the shutdown), and then just … hope that the other side gets so spooked that they cave and give you everything you want. “He just ups the ante and hopes the pain he causes others pushes them beyond their pain threshold,” one business professor described it. Does his strategy ever work, though? He got Canada and Mexico to revise NAFTA, but the new NAFTA is only a modest deviation from the old. The trade war with China continues to wear on just like the shutdown does. The problem with brinksmanship as a strategy is that the other side realizes immediately that making significant concessions under threat will only incentivize Trump to repeat the tactic later. As such, the choice is either to deter him by digging in, a la the Democrats and Beijing, or to see if he’ll accept token face-saving concessions to make it go away, a la Canada and Mexico. Trump’s brinksmanship is more theater than it is a carefully considered negotiating tactic.