A related question: How can he continue the program for six more months if DACA is “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch,” as Jeff Sessions claimed yesterday? Why not end it today?
Also related: Er, how could he have kept the program going for the past seven months if it’s been unconstitutional the whole time?
We shouldn’t think too hard about such things.
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
If “revisit” is just a euphemism for canceling the program in six months, okay. But if Trump had wanted to say that he was resolved to end DACA in six months, he would have said that. “Revisit” reeks of him wanting to leave himself some wiggle room to keep the program going despite his own AG having pronounced it unconstitutional on national television yesterday. Sessions took away that wiggle room, so why hedge with the “revisit” language? It’s six months or bust.
But it gets worse. Trump’s hint on Twitter that he might indeed be bluffing about ending DACA is going to make it that much harder for congressional Republicans to bite the bullet and pass something.
Trump’s 140-characters of compassion for Dreamers may actually make their situation worse. There was a chance that the prospect of kicking out hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants with deep roots in America would have spurred Congress into taking a difficult immigration vote. But why would GOP lawmakers take the risk after Trump admitted that he’s bluffing?
The president doesn’t seem to understand that “revisiting” DACA in six months isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. The Department of Homeland Security stopped accepting DACA applications as of Tuesday, so anyone who was planning to apply is already blocked from the program. Those whose DACA protections are set to expire before March 6 have a month to apply for one last renewal. All other DACA recipients are set to revert to unauthorized status on March 6.
The first rule of the art of the deal is to signal immediately that you’re bluffing, I guess. Every Republican on the Hill must have read last night’s tweet and thought, “If Trump’s willing to clean up this mess six months from now, let him.”
What explains the strange vacillations from “we need to show DREAMers some heart” to “we’re ending DACA” to “I’ll revisit the issue in six months”? Sure, partly it’s the fact that Trump is genuinely conflicted. He seems reluctant to end the program but feels he has no choice, having ranted about it as a candidate and needing to please his populist base. But I think this is right too, that the president believes “If you can’t pin down Trump’s position, you can’t be mad at him for it.” If he’s pro-DREAMer but anti-DACA but also sort of pro-DACA, it’s impossible to say what his “position” really is. In Trump’s mind, that maximizes his popularity by letting him argue later that he was pro-DREAM or anti-DREAM as political exigencies require. In reality, it ends up pleasing no one — especially since, as president, he’s on the hook for whatever his administration does regardless of how he feels about them doing it. The point of the six-month delay is to try to reassure DREAMers that Congress will sort this out before they face any immediate consequences, but the White House was circulating talking points yesterday urging DREAMers to prepare for “departure from the United States.” Trump is going to own this no matter how he hedges rhetorically. He might as well pick a side now and go all-in.
Here’s border hawk Jan Brewer sounding pretty chill about amnesty. Exit question: Why did Trump say in his tweet that Congress has six months to “legalize DACA” instead of six months to “find a solution”? The point of his statement yesterday was that DREAMers are taking jobs from young American citizens. Now he wants to see them legalized? Does not compute.