Yesterday, President Trump said he would be open to putting some Dreamers on a path to citizenship, only to have it walked back by unnamed senior staff. The following is a reaction and a reflection on the state of play by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
We have seen this script before: President Trump makes off-the-cuff comments, the political class seems surprised by an uncharacteristically generous statement, and hardliners like Stephen Miller and Tom Cotton scramble to walk him back.
But let’s not be fooled. The comment by Trump is purposeful. It’s designed to give us a spoonful of sugar before the bitter medicine of Trump’s far-reaching nativist agenda is served up next week. Get ready for Trump to make an all-out push to gut our legal immigration system and refugee laws and to build up his deportation force, on top of demanding his stupid wall – all on the backs of Dreamers.
It’s time to step back and take a clear-eyed look at how we got here and what’s next.
First, Trump created this crisis when he ended DACA in September. He did not have to end it nor did he seem to want to end it. But he was manipulated by his hardline advisors – Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions – into doing so. Then, when the blow back was intense, and within hours of the announcement, the cable TV-watching President switched teams. He called on Congress to pass legislation to fix the crisis he had just created.
Over the past five months, a Republican congressional leadership that supposedly takes its cues from the President has done nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sure they’ve made nice statements. But they haven’t moved actual legislation.
As a result, Democrats such as Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, along with brave Republicans such as Lindsey Graham and Will Hurd, have worked tirelessly to fill the vacuum. They have developed a number of viable bipartisan proposals and bills designed to solve the Dreamer crisis in a way that holds Democrats and gives Republicans a victory. The reaction from a White House that says it wants a bipartisan solution? Three times – in September over dinner with Chuck and Nancy; in January when Tuesday Trump, the one who promised to take the heat, yielded toThursday Trump, the one who went on a racist rant; and over cheeseburgers with Chuck last Friday – Trump agreed in principle with a bipartisan proposal. Then, his hardliner staff and his hardliner allies in Congress got to him, walked him back, and blew up the bipartisan solutions.
Why? Because the hardliners – John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton, Bob Goodlatte, and more – want to exploit the desperation of the Dreamers and the desire by Democrats to protect them to enact a far-reaching, radical gutting of our nation’s immigration system. They want to slash legal immigration by nearly 50%, the largest such reduction in nearly 100 years. They want to eliminate most categories of legal immigration, including the one that admits people from countries that Trump calls “shitholes.” They want to gut our nation’s asylum laws so they can send Central Americans, who are seeking safety, back into the burning house they fled. They want to build up their deportation force to drive millions out of the country. They want to build a big, stupid, wasteful and insulting border wall to extend the middle finger to Latin America.
No. No way. We won’t stand for it. They don’t get to exploit a crisis they created so they can take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty. They don’t get to threaten young Americans with deportation in order to keep out and kick out millions. They don’t get a radical comprehensive overhaul in exchange for a limited fix to an immediate crisis.
The way forward is simple. Dream Act for smart border security. All other issues – good and bad – should be held over to a second round of discussions and debate.
Look, Trump created this crisis, Republicans supported his decision to end DACA; they control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives; and 87% of Americans want Congress to protect Dreamers. Republicans are on the hook, and they have a choice to make. Do they want to protect Dreamers or deport Dreamers? If they want to protect the Dreamers, narrow gets it done, and now.