Does this even qualify as news? Trump’s already signaled his support for DREAMers by refusing to rescind Obama’s DACA amnesty and he’s said publicly that he’d like a comprehensive immigration bill if possible. Of course DREAMers would be a key part of that. So what’s the scoop here?
Maybe the scoop is that this story is leaking so soon after Steve Bannon left the White House, with Trump’s populist base already on edge about “globalists” steering him towards left-wing policies. Nothing would be more likely to trigger a panic attack and “prove” that Trump’s come unmoored than a provocative story about a big immigration sellout driven by the “Democrats” in the West Wing being in the works. Two wrinkles, though. One: McClatchy claims a half-dozen sources for its scoop. Are there even a half-dozen Bannon loyalists left in the White House? Two: If you believe the previous reporting by BuzzFeed, Bannon himself was open to a DREAM amnesty. Quote: “Bannon views DACA, which tends to be viewed more favorably than many immigration policies, as a strategic asset in the coming immigration policy battles.” It’s a bargaining chip, aimed at conceding citizenship for illegals who are already more or less fully assimilated into American culture in exchange for security improvements to keep the unassimilated out.
Which is exactly what the current plan is, per McClatchy:
The White House officials want Trump to strike an ambitious deal with Congress that offers Dreamers protection in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, according to a half-dozen people familiar with situation, most involved with the negotiations.
The group includes former and current White House chiefs of staff, Reince Priebus and John Kelly, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as presidential advisers, they said. Others who have not been as vocal publicly about their stance but are thought to agree include Vice President Mike Pence, who as a congressman worked on a failed immigration deal that called for citizenship, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a Democrat who serves as director of the National Economic Council.
The conventional wisdom is that Republicans in Congress won’t go for this, especially with a dicey midterm approaching, since populists in the base will freak out. Eh, I’m not so sure. With Trump, the nationalist-in-chief, out there selling the compromise to a reluctant GOP base, why wouldn’t the many amnesty fans among congressional Republicans leap at the chance to pass something? I think Trump could successfully sell it to the base too, provided that he really did get everything mentioned in the excerpt above in return for the DREAM amnesty. DREAMers are a small segment of the overall illegal population whom everyone assumes will be legalized one way or another in due time. Might as well bite the bullet on their right to remain in the U.S. if you can get the wall and internal enforcement in return. Major conservative media would help Trump sell it as well, I’m sure. There’s no shortage of DREAMers the White House could run out to shows like “Hannity” with sympathetic stories about how America is the only country they’ve ever known.
The sticking point here isn’t Republicans, it’s Democrats. There’s no way Schumer’s going to give away the farm on security improvements in exchange for amnesty for only a smallish number of young illegals. That would leave him with no remaining leverage over Trump in getting him to agree to legalize the broader illegal population in the U.S. eventually. (We pause here, as always, to reflect upon Democrats using protection of America’s borders as a bargaining chip to eliminate penalties on lawbreakers.) He’s also not going to consider this before a midterm that momentarily looks rough for the GOP in the House. Better to bide his time, hope that the House turns blue next fall, and then negotiate with Trump and McConnell with Democrats enjoying much more bargaining power. Even if Schumer knew for a fact that both houses of Congress would remain in Republican hands, he might boycott an immigration deal purely for the sake of denying Trump any major legislative achievements during his term. Democrats have convinced themselves that the GOP owes its electoral successes during Obama’s presidency to its ability to thwart his agenda, leaving him on the hook for paralysis in Washington. Now they’re going to play the same game with Trump. Nothing will get done before 2020 if Schumer has anything to say about it. Certainly nothing will get done on immigration unless Trump comes to the table with much more than amnesty for DREAMers.
An interesting paragraph from deeper in the McClatchy story:
[Immigration hawk Stephen] Miller was ordered not to brief the president on the issue in recent months, according to two of the people. A former campaign and transition aide, Miller has briefed Trump many times on Dreamers so his views are not unknown, but the president has a tendency to side with the last person who speaks to him and Kelly, who became chief of staff three weeks ago, has kept a tight watch on who gets to talk to Trump.
National policy is being set by a man so prone to siding with the last person who speaks to him, it seems, that individual advisors need to be quarantined so as not to wreck ongoing negotiations. Maybe that’s why Kelly was so eager to kick Bannon out last Friday. Who knows what would have happened to the new Afghanistan surge if Bannon, who opposes a new build-up, had pulled Trump aside 10 minutes before last night’s speech and pitched him on a drawdown?
But never mind that. The most interesting part of that paragraph is the claim that Miller was “ordered” not to brief Trump on DREAMers. Who ordered him? The logical answer is Kelly, but Kelly’s only been chief of staff for three weeks and McClatchy claims Miller’s been kept away from Trump “in recent months.” Did Reince, another amnesty fan, lay down the law? Did Jared? Miller’s probably the most popular figure in the White House at this point among populists apart from Trump himself. A gratuitous detail in a news story about him not being allowed to share his views with the president makes it seem even more likely that this was leaked by a Bannon ally who’s unhappy with Trump’s drift towards a comprehensive deal on immigration and wants the populist base to be unhappy too. Could that source have been Miller himself?