Is Trump Caving On Illegal Immigration? Not Really.


The rumor of the day is that President Trump is about to cave on immigration.

That rumor has been taken up with alacrity by immigration hard-liners. Breitbart actually branded Trump “AMNESTY DON” in response to Trump’s comments to reporters on Thursday about illegal immigration.

So, here’s what Trump actually said about making a deal regarding President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive amnesty:

We’re going to get the wall, we’re going to get great border security. In fact I just wrote something out, and you might talk about it chief if you want, otherwise we’ll do it tomorrow, but I just wrote something out, what we’re looking, we want great border security, we want to do a great job with DACA, I think it’s our issue, I think it’s a better issue for that Republicans than for the Democrats.

When asked if Trump wanted citizenship for DREAMers, he answered:

We do, we’re going to morph into it it’s going to happen at some point in the future. Over a period of 10-12 years, somebody does a great job, they’ve worked hard, it gives incentive to do a great job. If they’ve done terrifically, whether they have a little company, or whether they work, whatever they’re doing. If they do a great job, I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.

Then, asked if Trump would extend the deadline for DACA recipients to be allowed to work and DREAMers to apply for DACA status, Trump answered:

Yeah, I might do that. I might do that. I’m not guaranteeing it because I want to put a little bit of — but I certainly have the right to do that if I want. Chain migration we’re going to create a good standard so that not everybody, you know not everybody that you ever met can come into the country. But you’ll have wives and husbands and you’ll have sons and daughters, and we’ll talk about parents, parents is a tricky situation because they came here illegally. So you’ll have that. But chain, where we get the lottery system is a broken system, they put people in a lottery. They’re not putting their finest in that system, you would not be in that system.

Trump pledged to fight for border wall funding for “800 miles of wall,” which presumably would cost some $25 billion. He then added that he would invite Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) back to the White House, stating, “Sure. I like him! I like him! I grew up with Schumer.” He added that DREAMers should not be worried: “Tell them not to be concerned, OK? Tell them not to worry about it, we’re gonna solve the problem.”

So, this requires some parsing.

It seems as though Trump is proposing the following deal:

  • DREAMers — children who came to the United States as illegal immigrants but grew up here — may become citizens in 10-12 years, so long as they are of net benefit to the United States;
  • Chain migration ends, except for parents, who may or may not receive citizenship;
  • $25 billion for building the border wall;
  • An end to the diversity visa lottery.

This isn’t a bad deal, unless Trump gives amnesty to the parents who have actually illegally crossed the border. Even if they are allowed to stay, they should not be given the ability to vote on a blanket basis; they should be evaluated individually, just as all other immigrants are. But the reality is that Trump was never going to deport DREAMers or their parents, so getting significant concessions in exchange would be a decent deal.

With that said, Trump undercut his own negotiating stance here. Stating that he’ll reinstate DACA without Congressional approval actually creates incentive for Democrats to withdraw from any deal, knowing that Trump will cave and receive no concessions in return. Trump has to take the position that DACA will be struck down with full force on March 5 if he wants to push Democrats into a bargain. That seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, members of Trump’s own administration are already walking back this proposal altogether.

So, is this Trump “caving”? Only if you believed his grandiose promises about mass deportations during the election cycle. Most Trump voters didn’t even believe that. Which means that Trump isn’t caving. And the deal probably won’t get done anyway.

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