Remember when Donald Trump promised his immigration-hardline supporters that they would get tired of all the winning? Good times, good times. Not only has Trump extended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and pushed Congress to make it permanent, the White House announced that it won’t push funding for the border wall as a trade-off over concerns it might derail DACA.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters on Tuesday that President Trump would not demand that border wall funding is tied to a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Speaking at a roundtable event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Short said the administration didn’t want to “bind” itself by making a demand that would likely be a nonstarter for many lawmakers.
“We’re interested in getting border security and the president has made the commitment to the American people that a barrier is important to that security,” Short said. “Whether it’s part of DCA or another legislative vehicle, I don’t want to bind us into a construct that would make the conclusion on DACA impossible.”
Let that one sink in for a moment. The Department of Justice has already announced that DACA-related actions won’t be a priority even if the program somehow manages to expire. Trump himself assured DACA recipients that there will be “no action!” after Nancy Pelosi urged him to do so on Twitter.
Even with all of those assurances of non-action in place, the White House values a DACA deal so much that they have pre-emptively taken Trump’s biggest promise of the election cycle off the table in order to get it. Now, perhaps there was a chapter in Art of the Deal that most missed, but taking big asks off the table before negotiations begin in earnest does not seem to be the path to “winning so much that we’ll get sick of winning.” So much for the nationalists and populists, eh?
This cave goes beyond the nationalist-populist base, however. There are conservatives, myself included, who see a statute-based DACA as a rational policy, albeit shorn of work permits. It makes little sense to deport teenagers who have lived most of their lives in the US after being brought here illegally by parents, but that’s only true if border security is enhanced enough to prevent more from coming across in response to the incentives DACA establishes. Without effective border security in place, DACA will end up being a magnet for illegal entry just the same as employers willing to overlook eligibility in favor of low labor costs.
Short insists that the Trump administration is still super serious about the wall:
“The president is not backing off a border wall,” he said. “The president is committed to sticking by the commitment that a physical structure is needed….whether that is part of a DACA package or another package, I won’t prejudge that today, but he’s committed to getting that wall built.”
Riiiiiiight. In terms of leverage, Trump had no better bargaining chip than DACA to get Democrats to approve border-wall funding. It wouldn’t have involved a government shutdown, and would have forced Democrats to vote against DACA to stop a relative pittance of federal funding for a wall that still remains broadly popular among most voters. What will Trump have left for leverage — the federal budget? After his deal last week with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump’s already signaled he doesn’t have the stomach for a shutdown. As stupid as the debt-ceiling fight is, Trump’s also given that one away too.
The big question will be how Trump supporters will spin this cave as a victory when the time comes. Presumably this one won’t make any liberals cry, nor will it cause tears to form from the eyes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who will welcome the chance to make Trump own DACA. I’m sure we’ll hear all about the pony in the room as soon as enough shoveling takes place.