An amnesty created by executive action can be rescinded by executive action. And as chance would have it, the incoming president is an outspoken opponent of amnesty, exactly the kind of guy who’d be inclined to rescind. DACA, Obama’s programs for DREAMers, could be history less than two months from now. What’s a border dove like Lindsey Graham to do? Why, write a bill that would give DREAMers legal status under federal law, of course. Then the issue would be settled and there’d be nothing President Trump could do to take that status away.
Seems like a logical project for amnesty fans to take up in the lame-duck session. Except that … Graham’s not trying to get this done in the lame-duck. He’s expecting Trump to sign the bill into law next year. And really, he has no choice on the timing: It’s hard to imagine Mitch McConnell ramming an amnesty through for Barack Obama’s signature with a Republican successor just weeks away from taking office.
“The worst outcome is to repeal the legal status that these kids have,” Graham said Wednesday. “Whether you agree with them having it or not, they’ve come out of the shadows.”
Graham said he is working with both Democrats and Republicans, and named Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as one GOP supporter of the forthcoming legislation. While lawmakers are discussing the proposal now, actual legislation won’t be rolled out until the new Congress next year, Graham said…
The plan discussed by Graham would apply just to the immigrants who had been approved under the 2012 directive from Obama. Graham indicated that the legislation would be a bridge from a repeal of DACA “until we can fix the overall problem.”
At least two other Gang of Eight alumni, Dick Durbin and Jeff Flake, are interested in the bill because of course they are. One wrinkle to all of this that might help Graham twist some arms in Congress is the fact that Obama’s administration has amassed a giant database of information on DREAMers via DACA’s registration process. In order to qualify for legal status under the program, illegals had to provide their name, address, fingerprints, and other personal information, supposedly in the assurance that that data wouldn’t be used against them later. Now, suddenly, custody of that database will fall to Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. If they want to round up and deport the nearly 750,000 young illegals who enrolled in the program, they’ll know just where to find them. (New York City has its own database of illegals who have registered with the city for ID cards. The mayor’s office is considering deleting it lest Trump’s administration gain access to it.) Graham will make the case to fencesitters in Congress that it’d be unfair to let the federal government use that information to remove DREAMers after it was obtained in the first place with a promise of legalization. The only solution: Legalize ’em for real, via statute.
Except … how on earth do you get Donald Trump to go along? True, DREAMers are the most sympathetic class of illegals since many were brought to the U.S. involuntarily as small children, but Trump’s not going to kickstart his populist presidency by signing a blanket amnesty for a group of illegal immigrants, especially on terms that were set by Barack Obama. Presumably Graham is writing this bill in the expectation that it’ll end up as a piece of a larger deal that involves new border security measures too. If, say, Senate Democrats agree to appropriate new money for “the wall,” maybe Trump will see some value in a limited amnesty measure that most of the public is likely to support. (If you believe this story, Trump has been sold on the idea of letting DREAMers stay in the U.S. at least once before.) Besides, Trump’s base is more open to the idea of legalizing illegals than they’re often assumed to be. Here’s some new data from Pew:
Sixty percent is a very solid majority, although the term “Trump supporters” may be a tiny bit misleading in this case. Technically, “Trump supporters” includes everyone from the true-believing MAGA crowd to the traditional Republicans who held their noses and voted for Trump in order to keep Hillary Clinton away from the Supreme Court. A large chunk of the latter group will probably be fine with an amnesty for DREAMers; the former group might not be, especially if Trump were to sign Graham’s bill with no new security guarantees attached. (Which I’m sure he wouldn’t.) It may be that Graham’s real scheme in all of this is to try to jump-start a wider effort towards comprehensive immigration reform by starting small, with a group Trump might be open to legalizing, and then building on that. If Trump’s going to sign something amnestizing one group of illegals, he might prefer to take care of the entire issue rather than tear the band-aid off bit by bit, with a new group under consideration for legalization every year or two. Maybe Graham’s dangling this in front of Schumer in the expectation that he’ll come to the table with something on border security, and then they’ll go from there towards a broader deal.
Here’s Marco Rubio being asked this past weekend (at 8:20 of the clip) what Trump should do about DACA and the DREAMers. Rubio’s advice: Don’t rescind the legal status given to them, but don’t renew it or extend it either. It expires in two years, which should be enough time for Congress and Trump to work out a permanent solution that will settle their status. Will Trump’s base tolerate that, though? He got elected promising to be the bold man of action who’ll take a wrecking ball to Obama’s garbage policies, starting with ObamaCare. How can he look the other way for two years, especially on an immigration matter? Like I say, it might be better to rip the band-aid off than to peel it slowly.