When President Trump spoke to the nation on Saturday, January 19, offering a deal to Democrats in an attempt to end the border wall funding impasse, he laid out several items on his list of demands and proffers:
- $5.7 billion in funding for the physical barrier and associated infrastructure (presumably access roads, drag strips, and the like);
- Funding sufficient to pay for 2,700 new border patrol and "law enforcement" agents, plus funds for an additional 75 immigration judges to help reduce the crushing backlog in the immigration courts, which has reached nearly a million cases;
- $800 million in unspecified humanitarian assistance;
- $805 million in funding to provide technical/technological infrastructure and canine units for detecting drugs being transited through ports of entry;
- Three additional years of "Deferred Action for 700,000 Childhood Arrival" (DACA) program recipients whose status would otherwise be terminated, which would include work permits and Social Security numbers (SSNs);
- Three additional years of extensions for 300,000 recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for those whose status would otherwise expire, also including work permits and SSNs; and
- A system to permit "Central American minors" to seek asylum in their own countries rather than hazarding the dangerous and illegal trek north.
As I mentioned in a prior blog, Democrats blasted the plan before the president had even made his speech, and after that many pro-enforcement immigration reformers also blasted the plan for offering an amnesty, comparing it to the disastrous 1986 immigration law that was supposed to end illegal immigration by balancing enforcement measures with a generous amnesty.
Though I had hoped to fence-sit long enough to see some of the more fully articulated details, I have become increasingly concerned. First to catch my attention was the tweet I cited in the blog mentioned above, to the effect that the president has little interest in enforcing the law against the 11-plus million aliens living and working illegally in the interior of the United States.
Then there is the refutation that the deal consists of an amnesty, made by both the president and the vice president (who, according to the media, hatched the premises of the offer in coordination with Sen. Lindsey Graham of "Gang of Eight" infamy, and First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner, who is known to be soft on immigration enforcement matters). Whether or not it is an "amnesty" depends, I suppose, on whether one thinks of amnesty as requiring something permanent up front, or whether it can consist of something softer such as the three-year deals on offer. But what is the long-term impact of the offer, which in many ways is more important than the superficial description? This is where I smell a rat.
Consider this: Both the DACA and TPS terminations ordered by the president long before the offer now being made are now wending their way through the federal court system, having been enjoined by liberal judges. Thus, without this deal, they will, for all intents and purposes, continue to exist until the court actions are final, almost certainly at the Supreme Court. What is the impact of a deal that resuscitates the programs, even for a finite period? The stakes are high in each case:
Any bargain that legitimizes DACA — especially through legislation — before a Supreme Court decision is rendered, fundamentally undercuts the administration's arguments that creation of the program was unconstitutional and unlawful. This deal would leave the Democrats in a position to claim in perpetuity that Barack Obama and his cabinet didn't violate the law or Constitution in creating this administrative quasi-amnesty because no court will have issued a final ruling to that effect. More importantly, without such a final judgment, it leaves future liberal-progressive administrations to go down the same path should they choose. That's a huge risk to take.
What's more, how will Central Americans who continue flooding north see it? Will they see it as proof positive that if they come and wait long enough, their patience will be rewarded with something equally desirable or even permanent, as the United States repeatedly pushes the "amnesty reset button" as a way of trying to make its immigration dysfunction disappear? Quite probably, and if so, then whether or not this is truly an amnesty is wordsmithing of the worst sort since, in the end, ground truth is the most accurate measure of reality. And, yes, a physical barrier will ultimately substantially curb the untrammeled crossings, but don't fool yourself that it will magically appear overnight. How many tens of thousands will come in the meantime, especially if they see the window closing?
Similarly, negating the decisions to terminate TPS programs that, by the very length of their existence (decades in some cases), clearly show they were an abuse of a program designed solely to afford temporary shelter after such things as hurricanes, volcanoes, humanitarian disasters, or the like, takes away any impetus to instill integrity and rigor in future TPS designations and timely terminations. It also likely moots out the court cases, leaving in place the allegations made by the alien plaintiffs that the administration's decisions were based on racial and ethnic animus. Why would the administration go along with this?
Then there is that three-year time frame that's been offered for extension of each of these two programs. Think about that. It conveniently pushes the decision-making on what to do with these programs (once again) up until one year after the next presidential election. Anyone who thinks that the three-year timeframe was proposed without a lot of forethought is a political naïf.
Assuming Donald Trump runs for president a second time — does anyone think he won't? — if he loses he can shrug his shoulders and walk away. But even if Trump wins, then once again confronting what to do with these thorny programs at the end of their three-year extension wouldn't come until one year into his final term, when he has no more races to run. Would he at that point sell out the American people with a resuscitated Son-of-Gang-of Eight put together by the same troika that gave us this offer, while packaging it as a great deal?
I don't know, but on sober reflection I don't have enough confidence in the situation, the process, or the players to think that this is a good deal for those who want to see respect for the law reinstilled in our nation's immigration laws and policy.