Curious as to whether Donald Trump will take the weak-sauce DACA deal floated this afternoon? Feast your eyes on this Kellyanne Conway clip with CNN’s Chris Cuomo last night. Conway says that Trump has “discovered” that a physical wall can’t be built all the way across the border, thanks to rivers, mountains, and other issues of which they’ve recently been made aware:
Conway tells CNN Chris Cuomo Trump "discovered" some of the wall will be "fencing" or "better technology" not necessarily a physical wall pic.twitter.com/arnfMxzPLA
— Salvador Hernandez (@SalHernandez) January 11, 2018
White House aide Kellyanne Conway said late Wednesday President Trump “discovered” there doesn’t need to be a “physical wall” along the country’s entire southern border.
“What’s true is that after conferring with the experts who are involved in this process…the president discovered that part of it will be, he knows, part of it will be the physical wall, part of it is better technology, part of it is also fencing,” Conway said during an interview on CNN.
“There are rivers involved, I’m told. There are mountains involved– there’s terrain that isn’t conducive to building an actual physical structure in some places.”
There are rivers and mountains involved … and there were in 2015, too, and in 2006, and so on. All one had to do was look at a map to know that without being “told.” That’s why the rest of the Republican field pointed out during the primaries that it would be impractical at least to promise a barrier across the entire southern border. When that rebuttal came up, Trump and his supporters dismissed it as weasel words, even though all of the Republicans favored barrier-plus security at the border.
The White House will pay a price for that oversimplification, but probably not a big price. Trump touched on a frustration among voters over the debate about just how much would be “virtual” and how much would be physical, a debate that Democrats used to stall the building of the physical barriers for which they largely voted in 2006. However, the oversimplified approach of promising nothing but “the wall” meant that the White House would eventually have to climb down from it.
This is most likely just the rationalization they’ll use with their base. Having won a deal on DACA with border-security and barrier funding, if that’s what has happened, the need to go full-2000-miles has dissipated. If Trump’s ready to climb down and embrace the “virtual,” it would only be because he’s gotten enough concessions to make it worth his while.
What kind of concessions did Trump get, though? An earlier report suggested some significant compromise from die-hard Democrats:
Senate negotiators, however, are working off of Trump’s description of the wall in the meeting. A deal is expected to include authorization for about $1.6 billion of funding for about 700 miles worth of fencing for various spots along the border.
In addition to border security, other points of negotiation include the how to address the Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Durbin was adamant that any deal include a path to citizenship for all Dreamers, not just those who applied for the DACA program.
The six senators are also discussing family-based immigration, also referred to as chain migration. Negotiators wanted to keep discussions narrow and discussions revolve around prohibiting Dreamers from being able to provide their parents a path to citizenship but instead protected status.
And finally, they are discussing eliminating the diversity visa lottery, which allows 50,000 slots for people to apply to emigrate to the U.S., and giving those slots to immigrants already in the U.S. with protected status, including those from El Salvador and Haiti whose protected status was eliminated. The Congressional Black Caucus is expected to oppose any end to the diversity visa, however, because it would end most immigration from Africa.
Another report later suggests less dramatic gains … significantly less dramatic:
In exchange for backpedaling two of his initiatives, Trump would score some real policy victories. The deal will revamp but not end the visa lottery program, numerous sources said. There are also ongoing talks of reworking the formula around so-called chain migration, including the possibility of altering the ability of those DREAMers to sponsor their relatives for legal status. …
Negotiations are ongoing about how to strengthen the e-Verify system that allows businesses to determine the legal status and eligibility of the workers they hire. The deal will, regardless, include a “sizeable security investment,” as one lobbyist put it. Democrats have been willing to accept such an arrangement, provided it was geared toward new border monitoring technologies.
The final deal will also include money for some sort of physical structure along the southern border. Just what that structure will be called and what it will resemble is still unclear. Trump has demanded funding for a wall, though he has backed off of an insistence that it be a coast-to-coast concrete barrier funded by the Mexican government. Democrats, and some Republicans, are adamantly opposed to a wall being built. In somewhat typical Washington fashion, negotiators are working to find the right nomenclature to satisfy both sides. Less difficult is figuring out how much money will go to a border structure. The lobbyist said it would be well below the $18 billion that Trump has requested—likely less than half of that, according to one lawmaker involved in the negotiations. Flake indicated that the total is considerably less than the White House’s request.
Meh. Seven hundred miles in barriers would cover about a third of the border, and the rest of the “virtual” fencing would probably come in the budget process for FY2019, if not in the omnibus bill itself. That probably won’t satisfy the hardliners who want Trump to stick to his promise for a full wall, but a third of a loaf is better than none, especially when rivers and mountains have suddenly been “discovered” that will make the full loaf toast anyway. If they get rid of the visa lottery and dismantle chain migration, the base will probably score that as a win — or at least the less hard-line portions of the base. However, the Daily Beast report makes it sound like Republicans came up short on both counts. Don’t expect the White House to get excited about this “deal.”
Even if they do, they’ll have to sell a redefinition of what the “wall” means, and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) says he doesn’t know what to believe on that point:
"I don't know what to believe because there have been so many different stories from this President about what he means when he talks about a wall that can stretch from Brownsville 2000 miles to San Diego," says Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke. https://t.co/JGAEJAGoSQ
— New Day (@NewDay) January 11, 2018
I suspect that some Republicans don’t know what to believe about it, either.