A leftover from Saturday. Schumer reportedly dangled the prospect of funding for the wall at Trump in their White House meeting on Friday. Now here’s the biggest amnesty shill in Congress backing him up on it, vowing to go down to the border and start laying bricks himself if it’ll buy legalization. It’s a smart play by Democrats because it exploits a wedge between Trump and the border hawks in his inner circle. Would Trump accept a “DREAM for the wall” deal straight up? Probably, sure. It’s his signature campaign promise. It’d be concrete proof — literally! — that he’d delivered on his vow to make America less hospitable to illegals. He could call it an unambiguous political win, in return for which all he’d need to offer is something he’d like to do in the first place.
But the wall is more a showpiece than a major tool to reduce immigration, which is why Trump likes it but John Kelly, Stephen Miller, and Tom Cotton are less interested. They’re zeroed-in on chain migration, a more substantive curb on the illegal population, and Schumer and Gutierrez know it. Hence the new play: Publicly offer Trump money for the wall and try to force a schism on the right. Other Democrats are coming around to tepid support for the idea too:
Asked about his comments by BuzzFeed News, Gutierrez went silent and got teary-eyed and then reiterated his thoughts. “OK, we’re ready to pay the ransom,” Gutierrez said…
Asked whether he could support wall funding in exchange for a DREAMER deal, Rep. Raul Grijalva said he is “open to it, but not terribly supportive of it,” adding that Gutierrez would have to convince him of the position.
“I understand we’re at a point that if there was an opportunity to do something for the DREAMERs…. Then we need to do that,” Grijalva said. “I thought [Democrats] had more leverage than we did.“
Grijalva isn’t some centrist Democrat. He’s the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. He’s as left as they come. But he knows a *comparatively* minor concession that’ll help Democrats with PR when he sees one. Seeing Dems like him and Gutierrez suddenly open to the wall, Trump fans watching the negotiations on cable news will be confused as to why Trump doesn’t accept and do the deal. Trump himself is probably confused privately as to why there’s such resistance on his staff and may start barking at Kelly et al. that it’s time to accept and notch a win when it’s available. Democrats are suddenly being “reasonable” on his big issue. Let’s take advantage! Meanwhile Kelly and serious border hawks will panic that funding for the wall is too small a prize for DREAM and is being used by Dems to knock the provisions of the RAISE Act off the bargaining table. In fact, money for the wall may never materialize in practice. Rich Lowry smells a bait-and-switch:
Even if everyone in Washington has the best of intentions, a Wall is unlikely to be built anytime soon, given the the logistical, legal, and bureaucratic challenges. And Democrats don’t have good intentions. If they take back Congress, surely one of their first priorities will be to defund and stop whatever Wall has been authorized.
Also, border security, properly considered, is about much more than the Wall — it requires all sorts of resources and authorities to make sure that people who are caught at the border don’t make it into the country anyway. Are Democrats going to accede to those?
Finally, this isn’t a big departure for immigration doves — they were also willing to throw money, about $30 billion, at the border to sweeten up the Gang of Eight bill. They are in a position now where they can make a theatrical concession on the border to try to get the kind of deal that restrictionists have always opposed — an immediate amnesty, for border security later.
Okay, but all of that was a risk when Trump started leading “Build the wall!” chants at his rallies two years ago and yet he pressed on. If everything Lowry says is true — the wall is a weak deterrent, this is necessarily another amnesty-now-for-enforcement-later deal, Dems will kill the funding as soon as they’re politically able — then Republicans might as well scrap the wall altogether. Democrats will never agree to suspend legal status for DREAMers or any other illegal for the duration of the wall’s construction, which could take years. And if the fear is that they’ll cancel the funding once they’re back in total control of government, it’d be pointless to do any immigration deal of any sort with them. Either nuke the filibuster in the Senate and pass a GOP wishlist bill on enforcement, expecting Democrats to repeal it at the first opportunity, or forget about immigration legislation entirely.
Even if Trump wanted to go the latter route, he’s still stuck with having to resolve DACA by March. Is he prepared to end the program as scheduled and to start deporting DREAMers? I sorely doubt it, in which case he’ll be left in a position where he’ll cave on DACA two months from now and then have to face the wrath of his base. “DREAM for the wall” isn’t the greatest deal the White House could demand on the *merits* of immigration enforcement but it may be the best they can demand on the politics of it. If McConnell can’t force Schumer to drop his demand for amnesty as part of a deal to fund the government, it’s the most logical play.
Besides, if you believe Jeff Flake, McConnell’s already promised pro-amnesty Republicans a vote on a bill to fix DACA by February 8th. If it happens, that’ll be a tough vote for Republicans: The bill will have bipartisan support thanks to Flake, Lindsey Graham, McCain, and a few others, and amnesty for DREAMers consistently polls spectacularly well. You can get away with voting no if you’re from a deep red state like Ted Cruz but what about Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Pat Toomey, etc?
Exit question: What does Trump want in all this? Quote from former Rubio advisor Alex Conant: “There’s a real sense that there’s a disconnect between the president and his staff on immigration issues, and people on all sides are seeking to exploit that disconnect. This is what happens when you have a president who is not clear and consistent on what he will accept: It emboldens all parties to take positions that they won’t compromise.”