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Why Trump’s DACA Offer Failed And What He Should Do Next

President Donald Trump has proposed a compromise offer to end the shutdown impasse and Democrats seem to have rejected it out of hand. While Trump’s deal has been lauded by many Republicans, in reality, it is not as magnanimous as it seems. Even though Trump’s offer is a step in the right direction, it is completely understandable why Democrats have rejected the offer.

Trump’s offer includes $5.7 billion for a wall that would not stretch the full length of the border but be placed in strategic locations. Construction would include the 115 miles now under construction or under contract, and 230 more miles this year. In exchange, the president offered Democrats three years of relief for 700,000 DACA participants. This would include the ability to get work permits, Social Security numbers and protection from deportation.

While the border barrier part of the offer seems fair, the DACA portion is problematic. Essentially what Trump is saying is that if you give me everything I want, I’ll give you something slightly better than the status quo for three years and, at that point, we are back to square one. Trump gets something permanent and the Democrats get something temporary.

A big part of the problem is that Speaker Pelosi knows that Congress is unlikely to fix the immigration problem three years from now. Congress has neglected to act on illegal immigration since 2007, largely because Republicans oppose anything that can be termed “amnesty,” which in their view means “anything other than deportation of all illegals.”

If President Trump wins the 2020 election and Republicans retain control of the Senate, a DACA fix would be dead on arrival. Some radical Republicans oppose a pathway to legalization under any circumstance as much as radical Democrats oppose a wall under any circumstances.

Prospects for a standalone DACA deal look bleak even if Democrats have a good year in 2020. If they win the Senate but not the White House, President Trump can veto the bill. If Democrats win both the presidency and the Senate, Republicans will most likely retain enough votes to filibuster a Democrat immigration bill.

For years now, I have held the opinion that the only way to solve the problem of illegal immigration is with a comprehensive reform bill. Both sides want different things and neither has enough votes to pass their own priorities. Both sides do have enough votes to block the other, however, so the result is a stalemate. There are only two possible solutions: Either wait until your party controls the presidency, the House, and has a supermajority in the Senate or else meet in the middle with a compromise.

President Trump is on the right track with his offer, but there are several elements that a successful bill must include. To minimize the effect of the law of unintended consequences as well as to get the necessary votes to pass, a compromise bill must contain:

  • Border security with triggers to make sure that a secure border is in place before the pathway to legalization. Security should go beyond a wall in select areas and include sensors to detect tunnels as well as an increased Border Patrol presence.
  • In exchange, Democrats get a pathway to legalization, not just for DACA participants, but for illegals who reside in the US and hold productive jobs with no record of serious or violent crimes. (Yes, illegal immigration is a crime, but it’s a crime in the same way that speeding is a crime. Improper entry by an alien is a civil infraction punishable by a $50 fine.) Legalization should be on a case-by-case basis with priority toward illegals who benefit their community and the US economy.
  • In exchange for leniency, penalties need to be severe enough to deter future illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration should be a felony punishable by prison time followed by mandatory deportation.
  • E-verify should be implemented to require businesses to hire legal immigrants only. Penalties should be stiff for those who knowingly violate the law.
  • In exchange for stronger penalties, the US needs to revamp current immigration law to make it easier for migrants to legally enter the country to work for US employers and then return home. There should be a guest worker program to avoid a labor shortage when the flow of illegal migrants is cut off.
  • The immigration process for permanent immigrants also needs to be reformed. Currently, the US educates foreign students in our colleges and then denies them green cards to work for our companies. This makes no sense and is actually encouraging companies to move outside the US. Decades-long waits for legal immigration encourage illegal immigration and need to be fixed.
  • Finally, visa overstays make up two-thirds of new illegal aliens. A system to track foreigners here on visas needs to be put into place.

Even with such a sweet deal, Democrats might not take President Trump up on his offer. After two years of name-calling and goading the opposition party, Trump may have so poisoned the well that no deal is possible. However, if Democrats turn down a total and fair reform of the immigration system, they will have to answer to their own base.

Ironically, Donald Trump might be the president who could deliver Republican votes for comprehensive immigration reform. In the same way that only Nixon could go to China, Trump’s hardline reputation on immigration and his devoted following from his base could inspire Republicans to support a comprehensive bill where they would desert most traditional Republicans. However, there is a significant risk for Trump that his base would fracture over what they perceive as amnesty. Anne Coulter is Exhibit A for this possibility.

Despite the risks for Trump, he obviously needs to sweeten the pot to bring Democrats on board. Doing so will require significant and permanent concessions from the GOP. That is the only way that a wall is going to happen.

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