Hard to believe at first blush. Steve Bannon, nationalist and publisher of Breitbart, wants to legalize a class of illegals encompassing hundreds of thousands of people? But this at least would solve the lingering mystery of why Trump hasn’t rescinded DACA yet after making stronger borders the centerpiece of his campaign. I can’t buy that someone like Reince Priebus or even Mike Pence could convince Trump to step back on DACA given how many border hawks are in orbit around him — Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, and of course Bannon. If those three pushed him to send a message about enforcement by dumping Obama’s amnesty, surely they’d prevail.
But what if it wasn’t all three of them who were pushing him? What if the most powerful of the three, Bannon, was actually urging Trump to duck a fight on this topic?
[T]wo administration sources pointed to chief strategist Steve Bannon as the man who preserved the current iteration of DACA, the victor of a debate with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who favored curtailing the program.
“Bannon usually wins most battles,” an administration insider said…
“Trump was never in favor of repealing DACA,” said a source close to the president, who also said that keeping the program is in line with the immigration stance of Bannon, whose counsel Trump closely heeds. Bannon’s economic nationalist view is very much rooted in culture, and so eliminating DACA wouldn’t be a priority for him because “these kids have been here and they’re going to schools here,” the source said. “They’re Americans. They understand the culture.”
Eh, I don’t know. That logic is a slippery slope. Does a 40-year-old who came here illegally when he was 20 and then went to work, with no criminal trouble, “understand the culture” any less than a 21-year-old who was brought here illegally when he was one? The difference is that the latter knows only American culture whereas the former knows Mexican culture too, but so what? Someone who’s been here 20 years and raised a family probably has no intention of returning to Mexico. During his brief “softening” phase on immigration last August, Trump himself used an example just like mine to suggest that maybe he was open to amnesty after all — and not just for DREAMers: “So you have somebody who’s been in the country for 20 years, has done a great job, and everything else. Do we take him and the family and her and him or whatever and send him out?” And to the extent this is about jobs rather than about culture, arguably there’s a stronger case for deporting the 23-year-old than the 40-year-old. The 40-year-old may have built a business whose economic value can’t be easily replaced if it’s uprooted; the 21-year-old may not have even entered the work force yet. No one really thinks like that, of course: It would seem cruel to deport someone to a country they’ve never known to punish them for an act of illegal border-crossing over which they had no control, a problem you don’t run into with the 40-year-old. But “understanding the culture” doesn’t explain all of this.
I think Bannon probably supports DACA less for nationalist reasons and more for strategic ones. In fact, BuzzFeed admits as much: “Bannon views DACA, which tends to be viewed more favorably than many immigration policies, as a strategic asset in the coming immigration policy battles, a source familiar with his thinking said.” An Axios reporter heard the same thing:
Can confirm Bannon has told ppl he views DACA as a negotiation chip & believes only folks that don't get the immigration problem focus on it https://t.co/NUlU0DUgOC
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) March 9, 2017
Keeping DACA in place gives Trump political cover to tighten enforcement in other areas. The left desperately wants to convince people that his immigration policy is gratuitously punitive and racist; meanwhile, in nearly every interview he gives on the subject, he makes a point of saying we need to have a “big heart” towards DREAMers. It’s harder for Democrats to sell him as a hater when he keeps winking publicly at amnesty for the most sympathetic group of illegals. And of course, as I’ve said before, DACA’s a nice bargaining chip for Ryan and McConnell to use in trying to swing a deal with Schumer. Trump and Bannon want more robust immigration enforcement so they’re dangling a limited amnesty — legalization for DREAMers — at liberals in exchange. If Schumer refuses, okay, but then it’s Democrats who killed the “DREAM” this time, not Republicans.
Here’s a quickie highlight reel of Trump’s famous speech on immigration last August. At 2:55 he vows to undo Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, DACA and DAPA, “in which he defied federal law and the Constitution.” When was the last time a president kept an EO intact which he’s on record as believing is unconstitutional?