Trump hinted that his proposed deal is a temporary measure to allow the government to reopen while both sides work on comprehensive immigration reform that would permanently fix the country’s broken immigration system. But two previous presidents have tried and failed to make that happen. And any comprehensive solution has to find a way to prevent the problem of the unauthorized from reemerging. That would involve implementing a guest worker program to allow migrants from Central America to work and live in the United States legally rather than having to sneak in illegally. But Trump didn’t allude to that. In fact, in his remarks, he revved up his previous accusations that immigrants lower American wages and undercut American jobs.
Furthermore, Trump is playing a weak hand and offering much less than he should given how little leverage he has. The Supreme Court yesterday declined to put the administration’s DACA appeal on the docket. This means that the lower court rulings preventing Trump from scrapping DACA will stay in place for at least another year. If the Supreme Court had accepted the appeal, I have predicted, it would rule in Trump’s favor because Congress has given the president vast statutory authority to set immigration enforcement priorities. In that case, Trump could have held the specter of deporting Dreamers over the Democrats’ head to drive a hard bargain. But the court has pulled the rug out from under him.
None of that means that Democrats should dismiss Trump’s offer out of hand in order to deny him a symbolic victory on the wall.