During the omnibus bill signing today, President Trump offered a surprisingly strong message to DACA recipients. Ed noted earlier that Trump’s Twitter threat to veto the bill was based on DACA. That seemed ill-advised given that the last time Democrats shut down the government over DACA it didn’t go too well for them. But having stated that he might veto the bill over the issue, Trump apparently wanted to back up just how much he wanted a DACA fix in this bill.
“I say this to DACA recipients, that the Republicans are with you, they want to get your situation taken care of,” Trump said. He continued, “The Democrats fought us. They just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill.
“And as you know, DACA is also tied to the wall for the major funding, the 25 billion dollars for [the] wall and other things. So I think that’ll be coming up very soon, but I do want the Hispanic community to know and DACA recipients to know that Republicans are much more on your side than the Democrats, who are using you for their own purposes.”
I’m not a believer in the idea that Trump is always playing 7-dimensional chess with his statements (while his opponents are playing checkers), but I do think there is a pretty obvious political gambit going on here.
Earlier this month, both Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi made clear that Democrats would not force a shutdown over DACA. They were going to negotiate on the omnibus bill separately. At the same time, Democrats began getting some pushback from DACA activists about selling them out. From Fox News:
“They don’t walk their talk,” said Cata Santiago, a 20-year-old Dreamer who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was just 8 years old. “We’re tired of it. We’re tired of believing them when they say ‘It’s the Republicans.’ They make promises when they’re in an election, and when it’s over they’re done and don’t do anything.”
“I’ve decided to put my faith in my community [of Dreamers] and not in the Democrats,” Santiago told Fox News…
On Monday, when a program that temporarily shields such immigrants from deportation had been set to end, Dreamers held a sit-in at the national headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., to shine a spotlight on what the youths describe as the Democrats’ betrayal of them.
“The Democrats made the calculation to kick the can down the road and allow hundreds of thousands of us undocumented youth to live in uncertainty,” said Maria Duarte, one of the participants, in a statement. “We are anxious and we are scared of being torn away from our homes and our community.”
So cracks have formed between DACA recipients and the Democratic Party. Trump is, pretty smartly I think, trying to drive the wedge in a little deeper by arguing that the GOP tried to include a DACA fix in this bill but the Democrats wouldn’t allow it. There’s some truth to that. The administration really did make offers that included at least a temporary DACA fix in exchange for major border control funding. Democrats rejected those offers.
The DACA fix is very popular, even among Republicans. Granted, some people on the right don’t want it, but Trump has already signaled he’s willing to agree to the DACA fix in exchange for the border control he wants. So he’s not offering to give away anything new here. By claiming the mantle of DACA champion he improves his negotiating position and, potentially, makes things tougher for Democrats on a deal that is eventually going to get done.