There are many funny things about this — the idea of President Trump, of all people, signing amnesty into law once reduced Rush Limbaugh to fits of laughter — but the funniest might be Wolf Blitzer in the clip below citing a “senior administration official” as his source. Um, it’s publicly known that he and a bunch of other news anchors had lunch at the White House today with Trump. Coincidentally, those other news anchors are also suddenly reporting this afternoon that Trump is interested in an immigration bill. According to this tweet, Bret Baier (who was also at the lunch) attributed the new position to Trump, not to an aide.
Which means the “senior official” Blitzer spoke to is almost certainly Trump himself. Honestly, who does this sound like?
The President believes that the nation is now in a position where it can pass immigration legislation, the senior administration official said, with the need to have “a softening on both sides. There’s got to be a coming together.”
A path to citizenship for those in the country illegally would not be part of Trump’s vision for this deal, with the possible exception of “Dreamers” — those brought into the US illegally as children. The President envisions a bill where those who haven’t committed any serious crimes could stay in the US legally, holding a job and paying taxes, without having to worry about being deported…
“It has to be a negotiation,” the official said, arguing that the bill theoretically could make people on both the “far right” and “far left” happy.
“It could be good for everyone,” the senior administration official said. “People are exhausted” from debating the topic.
You don’t often hear “softening” used as a noun but that’s exactly the word Trump famously chose last August when he described his (tentative, fleeting) evolution on immigration to Sean Hannity: “There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people.” “A softening” is the term he reaches for when he wants to describe his willingness to compromise on amnesty. (The gratuitous emphasis on negotiation in the excerpt is also highly Trump-y, needless to say.) Whether it came from POTUS or a top aide, though, there’s every reason to believe the story is true. It was less than three weeks ago that Trump told a group of senators, when pressed, that he’d be willing to consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill depending on the specifics. Less than one week ago, Limbaugh was on the airwaves making the case that amnesty for DREAMers — and no one else — wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it produced significant improvements in enforcement as part of a deal. Follow that last link for an array of other hints Trump has dropped over the past three months that he’s open to legalizing DREAMers, at least. He hasn’t been coy about this.
The bombshell in today’s CNN report is that, allegedly, he’s open to legalizing some adult illegals too. There’d be no path to citizenship (except maybe for DREAMers) but the left should and probably would take a mass legalization deal in a heartbeat. As border hawks are forever noting, amnesty is a one-way ratchet: Grant legal status to illegals and political pressure will build to make sure that that status is not only never taken away but that it eventually lands them on a path to citizenship too. Trump’s treatment of Obama’s DACA amnesty is a case study of the phenomenon. He promised as a candidate to rescind O’s order; not only has he failed to do that but here he is, barely a month in office, reportedly already entertaining the possibility of granting them permanent legal status and even citizenship. Any gains Democrats can get from Trump on legalization will be effectively irreversible and they know it (or should know it). Which makes me wonder if the hint in the CNN story about legalizing adults is a red herring, something Trump intends to quickly retreat from once there’s an outcry about it on the right and to insist instead that he’ll tolerate legalization for DREAMers and no one else. By raising the prospect of a big cave now, the White House makes a smaller cave later seem more acceptable.
One wrinkle about Trump possibly mentioning this tonight, though: His guests at the State of the Union will be a group of people whose family members were killed by illegal immigrants. It would be … awkward under the circumstances to float a mass amnesty, although a limited amnesty for DREAMers might be pitched in contrast to the criminals Trump is deporting. “We need balance, let’s get the bad ones out and give the good ones hope,” etc. That pretty much has been Trump’s message over the past five weeks. Tonight may be the starkest expression of it so far.