Better late than never? Last month, Donald Trump tried cutting a deal with Democrats to pass a statutory version of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and wanted it badly enough that he was willing to put off negotiations for funding his top campaign promise. “The wall will come later,” Trump told reporters at the time.
Now, however, Trump wants to bring the wall into the negotiations, and even more:
The White House on Sunday said it would seek more funds from Congress to finance building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as more resources to hire thousands more immigration officers.
The Trump administration’s new “immigration principles and policies” call for a crackdown on border security, more resources to catch individuals residing in the country illegally, as well as a merit-based system that limits chain migration to spouses and children.
The new demands would have to be met for President Trump to agree to legislation that would protect from deportation young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children. These recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, often called “Dreamers,” have been the focal point of recent talks between Trump and Democratic leaders of Congress.
“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” Trump said in a statement following the announcement of the proposal on Sunday. “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end.”
Needless to say, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer don’t recall these demands coming up in their previous meeting with Trump:
In a joint statement Sunday night, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump’s list of proposals failed “to represent any attempt at compromise.”
“The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans” they wrote. “The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the president’s “draconian and anti-immigrant principles” threatened to jeopardize “the bi-partisan, bi-cameral progress that has been made to pass a legislative solution that will protect nearly 800,000 Dreamers.”
What gives? A month ago, Trump liked making deals with Pelosi and Schumer. He was so delighted with the press he got from his three-month budget and debt-ceiling extension (at the expense of Republicans) that he called Pelosi to share the reviews, at which time she got him to tweet reassuring messages to DACA recipients. Until now, Republicans figured that Trump had decided to look for a deal wherever he could make one, and DACA would be one of the lower-hanging fruit on the legislative tree.
Suddenly, though, Trump’s making an ask that he knows Democrats won’t — and can’t — possibly meet. Pelosi and Schumer shrewdly blame Trump’s “staff” and “administration” rather than the president himself for that, perhaps hoping to peel him away again. “Staff” almost certainly refers to Stephen Miller, about whom moderate Republicans complained last week as a fly in the ointment to a DACA deal. At the time, Allahpundit wondered whether those complaints were a media signal intended to alert them to Miller’s machinations on DACA. Now it looks more like a warning signal to Trump on following Miller’s lead — a warning which Trump seems to have rejected.
About the best that can be said about this is that it’s a return to first principles for the administration, and a recognition of their risk with their populist-nationalist base. Overall, it looks as though the administration has no real strategy to deal with immigration and national security, and that they’re making it up as they go. After giving away the store to Pelosi and Schumer a month ago, Trump’s not going to convince them to give it back. They will believe after having won his concessions in September that Trump will change his mind again on DACA as the incentives shift, and all they need to do is wait him out. And they’re almost certainly right.