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.
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.
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
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