When Senate Republicans released a draft bill on Monday night with a wall funding-for-Dreamer protections deal, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t the compromise to end the partial government shutdown that President Donald Trump had touted.
The bill would gut the asylum system. It would make it easier to deport Central American children who arrive in the U.S. without their parents. It would expand Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention and deportation budget by more than 20 percent.
Perhaps most galling, it didn’t even offer a better deal for Dreamers than the status quo, even though concessions on that issue were hyped as the compromise that would bring Democrats to the shutdown negotiating table. Under the draft bill, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection could apply for a new program with stricter requirements that would offer similar deportation protection and work authorization, but that would permanently expire three years later.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is set to bring this legislation up for a pointless vote on Thursday. The measure is all but certain to fail in the Senate and would be impossible to pass in the House.
“It’s beyond poisoned pills ― they didn’t even try,” Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Services, told HuffPost. “There’s not even an iota of effort to come up with a compromise. It’s shocking.”
When Trump unilaterally canceled DACA in September 2017, many observers assumed that he did so in order to give himself leverage to demand concessions from Democrats related to immigration and border security ― like funding for a U.S.-Mexico wall, for example. Holding the security of 700,000 Dreamers hostage in order to fulfill his controversial campaign promise does have a certain logic to it.
Events since his DACA strike have undermined Trump’s position somewhat. Multiple federal judges have temporarily blocked the program’s cancellation and so far the Supreme Court has refused to fast-track its consideration of the injunctions that allow Dreamers to keep renewing their DACA protections ― for now.
Trump still has tremendous leverage when it comes to DACA. Having been created through executive action, the program can be reversed by hostile presidents who follow the law. And the program is currently stuck in legal limbo. Supporters of immigration reform, including Dreamers themselves, have long demanded a permanent solution, ideally with a pathway to citizenship.
But Trump is not a Machiavellian strategist, using the twin weapons of deception and terror to achieve his ends. He’s merely an obstructionist self-promoter for whom disaster is its own reward, as long as it’s on brand.
That’s why he threatened to veto ― and thereby doomed ― a bill last year that would have made DACA permanent and set out a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion in wall money. And that’s why the draft bill unveiled Monday night made an offer that the Democrats couldn’t possibly accept.
“This is so far away from a good faith effort,” said Philip Wolgin, the managing director for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress. “It’s nowhere near ‘Let’s make a trade: DACA for the wall.’”
Some observers casting about for signs that a rational mind in the White House might honestly be cooking up a solution to the problem of Trump refusing to sign a shutdown-ending bill without some wall money are now watching Jared Kushner. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser is trying to “figure out what bigger immigration reform looks like,” including a possible “path to green cards” for DACA recipients, according to an Axios report on Wednesday.
The phrase “path to green cards” is another way of saying the more commonly heard “pathway to citizenship,” albeit in a form that sounds less objectionable to hardline immigration restrictionists. Perhaps that bit of language trickery offers a small sign that the thinking in the White House is evolving.
What is less encouraging about the Axios report is its portrayal of Kushner. He seems unaware that the solution he’s considering as if it were novel is the same one that his father-in-law has already rejected multiple times.
“If the president put up a bill with permanent protection for Dreamers for border security money, it would pass,” said Todd Schulte, president of the nonpartisan immigration advocacy group FWD.us and a major critic of Monday’s draft bill. “If the president wants money for the wall, he knows how to get it.”