Even Democrats Agree With That. But Where We Are Right Now Is Almost Exclusively About A Tantrum Being Thrown By A President Because He Isn’t Getting Everything Done His Way.
It’s symbolism, not policy. And of course Trump sees it as more than a campaign promise: it’s to be his visible, lasting legacy.
With that in mind, let’s review a couple of the options being thrown around this weekend to get out of this mess (or maybe deepen it):
• DACA for Wall. This deal, which the White House insisted never existed, until Trump a couple of weeks ago admitted it did, would give Trump funding for his wall in exchange for a permanent fix for the DACA program. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. as children stay indefinitely. It does not currently provide any path to citizenship, just that the U.S. won’t move to deport these 800,000 or so people who are registered with the government. (That’s what the “Deferred Action” in the name refers to). Presumably, a “DACA for Wall” deal would not only extend the program (which is tied up now in the courts after the Trump Administration tried to kill it), but allow a path to citizenship.
We have a problem with this: even though Trump moved to kill DACA (which he didn’t need to do), he’s also repeatedly said he wants to keep the people covered by it in the country. The Koch Brothers really want that, especially with unemployment as low as it is right now leading to danger of a labor shortage. So why should Democrats solve a problem that’s entirely of Trump’s making by giving him (and a lot of rich Conservatives) something he wants in exchange for something else he wants. Why not DACA and gun control for the wall? Why not DACA and an end to “dark money” campaign financing for the wall?
• Trump Declares a National Emergency. Trump invoking emergency Presidential powers, as he’s repeatedly threatened to do and just go ahead and build his wall, may sound completely crazy. Despite the pictures Trump paints, it’s not like there’s an invading horde amassed at the border. So it’s easy to believe it’s mainly a negotiating ploy; an empty threat.
Still, in a strange way, it might be the option that works out best for Trump, at least in the short term. Because if the President does this, it will immediately be challenged in the courts, and tied up for months until it reaches the Supreme Court. (Even if Trump doesn’t do this, and gets Democrats to agree to wall funding some other way, it’ll still inevitably face numerous legal challenges, because the project will involve the federal government taking peoples’ land away from them in order to build the wall on it.)
Meanwhile, Trump can sign bills getting the rest of the government up and running again. And who knows how the Supreme Court will rule on it? Could they possibly interpret Trump’s move as a legitimate use of Presidential powers? If they do (or don’t), it would impact the U.S. government in an extremely significant way for years to come.
• Bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Legislation. We bring this up because as we’ve mentioned several times, there was a bipartisan immigration bill that breezed through the Senate 4 years ago, but didn’t pass in the House because of opposition from Republican Tea Partiers. And there still would be pushback from some in the far right who are vehemently against providing amnesty for anyone undocumented. Even with the people covered by DACA who came as children, and not willfully; they still broke the law and shouldn’t be allowed to stay.
But those voices are muted now that Democrats are in control of the House, so it should be a cinch, right? It would still involve some monumentally heavy lifting, although The Hill reports some Senators are at least talking about it as an option.
That bill actually had $7.5-billion dollars in it to build a border fence. More than Trump’s asking for now in order to reopen the government. It also implemented a lot of the others things Trump wants: an end to the visa lottery, a new “merit based” legal immigration, and end to what the President calls “chain migration”, a fix to DACA, and hiring 20,000 new federal agents at the Southern Border.
However, it also would’ve provided a 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented workers already in the country, would’ve expanded legal immigration numbers, and made it easier for asylum-seekers to enter the country. We’re not sure Trump’s folks in the White House would exactly be in favor of making those compromises.
• One other option nobody’s really talking about probably because it’s quite a stretch (although they are talking about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s lack of involvement in any of the talks), is a majority emerging that would simply override Trump’s promised veto of a bill to reopen the government. But 20 Republican Senators would have to agree to vote to override. Only 2 so far have indicated they would or might.
Vice President Mike Pence has been leading negotiations this weekend on behalf of Trump, which is potentially a big problem, because why believe anything he says or agrees to? What’s become pretty clear is only Trump can agree to what Trump agrees to, and even then he might change his mind based on reaction from far right wing media. Trump headed to Camp David Sunday for a huddle with White House staff.
Same thing goes for a “road show” of sorts going on right now in the Mideast, where National Security Advisor John Bolton, Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. Special Representative for Syria, and Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are all trying to reassure forces vying for regional power that even though Trump’s vowed a U.S. pull-out from Syria, the part about it being quick–within 30 days–isn’t really true anymore, nor is the part about abandoning Kurds and other allies on the ground who have been fighting alongside the U.S. “I think they know who their friends are”, says Bolton of the Kurds. But do they? Why would anyone believe him when Trump could say exactly the opposite tomorrow?