PRESIDENT TRUMP says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield “dreamers,” the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and that of many Republicans, is up to $33 billion in border-security measures, including Mr. Trump’s “beautiful” wall.
If that’s the deal — not one freighted with a laundry list of other items on the GOP wish list — Democrats should take it.
Granted, Mr. Trump once told Americans that a border wall, paid for by Mexico, would cost $4 billion. After that, he said $6 billion or $7 billion, and later $10 billion. Now his administration says it’s really $18 billion for 722 miles of wall, of which just 316 miles would be a brand-new structure along the 2,000-mile southwest frontier. Oh, and Mexico’s credit card seems to be missing.
The wall is a dumb idea. It won’t do much to suppress illegal border crossings, which in any event have been falling for decades. And the additional border-security spending proposed by the administration, including thousands of new Border Patrol agents, is largely a waste. Rather than seriously addressing the opioid epidemic, or mounting cyberwarfare threats, or America’s crumbling infrastructure, the president wants to fortify a border where illegal crossings, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions, are already at their lowest point since the Nixon administration.
But consider how rare it is that a dumb idea in Congress actually buys something smart in return. In this case, the return on that dumb idea would be huge. (And betting that the courts will save the dreamers is too risky, notwithstanding a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday freezing dreamers’ protections — for now.)
The wall’s $18 billion price tag would be spread over a decade. If a few billion dollars annually is the trade-off that provides certainty — a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal status — for nearly 700,000 young immigrants brought to this country as children by their parents, it’s worth it. Because the alternative — all those lives ruined, all those jobs lost, all that education and promise cut short — is much worse.
Democrats who choke on the wall, loath to hand Mr. Trump a political triumph, might ask themselves what other deals they might strike that would do so much tangible good, for so many people, so immediately — and at such a relatively modest price. The likely answer is: very few.
Some Republicans are angling for more than half a loaf. Using the dreamers as hostages, they want to decimate legal immigration, slash family reunification visas and dissolve the lottery system that provides visas for people from Africa and other regions that generate relatively few immigrants.
Those measures would inflict real harm on real people. By contrast, spending billions on border security, while profligate, has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. In 2006, many prominent Democrats, including then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, voted for 700 miles of fencing at the southwest frontier, albeit at a time when illegal crossings were more than three times greater than they are today.
Many in Congress may have lost the muscle memory required to strike a compromise, but here’s a reminder: In politics, as in life, compromise is often painful. That doesn’t mean you refuse it.”
Meanwhile, over at CNN, Tal and her colleague Ashley Killough file the following reports:
“Lawmakers compete to carry President’s mantle on DACA as talks continue
By: Tal Kopan, CNN
If the “four pillars” that emerged out of the White House immigration meeting spurred anything Wednesday on Capitol Hill, it was a fresh PR strategy.
A variety of competing factions continue to pursue their proposals on resolving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a policy President Donald Trump is seeking to end that protects from deportation young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.
As the lawmakers touted their proposals Wednesday, though, they made an effort to explain just how their own push is the one that meets the President’s wishes — even as all of them took different approaches. The marketing underscored how essential Trump’s approval is to any deal — and how much lawmakers believe he can still be convinced.
The White House meeting settled on four check boxes for Trump’s signature, although he told lawmakers he’d sign whatever the group came up with:
A fix for DACA recipients.
Money for border security.
Dealing with “chain migration” or family-based sponsorship.
Ending the diversity lottery.
As lawmakers sought to fill in the details Wednesday, they made sure to explain how their proposals related to the President’s guidelines.
Here are the key players in Congress on immigration
By Ashley Killough and Tal Kopan, CNN
As President Donald Trump led the widely-televised bipartisan meeting at the White House on Tuesday, he was surrounded by a flock of lawmakers from both parties and both houses of Congress.
A massive issue like immigration has many competing interests at stake, drawing in groups of lawmakers who work on competing proposals
In just one effort to streamline the process, the four second-in-command congressional leaders — Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — got together Wednesday afternoon to try to sort through the efforts.
“We are not going to default to existing groups. There were too many groups to count and they were basically getting nowhere,” Cornyn told reporters. “So that’s why, I think, the need to move to this level.”
But Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican member of another group, says it’s his “Gang of Six” that’s leading the way. “Somebody has to put forward a document. Somebody has to put forward a bill,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
A variety of formal and informal groups are still meeting and doing their own work, some designed to find the middle ground and some designed to pull talks to the left or right. Here’s a look at the key players across the political spectrum that have taken the lead.
I’ve been saying for some time now that a “Wall for Dreamers” deal might be the best the Dems can do. As the Post points out, although the “The Wall” probably is “overkill” in terms of border security, at least the money gets us something in return: the Dreamers are one of our country’s most valuable assets. People over “things.” Or, as we used to say in college, “nothing gets broken, no-one gets hurt.”
Whether or not the “deal” outlined by the Post is actually out there to be “closed” remains to be seen. It apparently would only address two of the four “pillars” described by Tal and Ashley. That seems entirely reasonable to me; but, of course, I’m not one of the negotiators. And, Trump said he would “sign anything that Congress sends him” on the topic.