Just one day after the White House reversed its position on naturalizing young illegal immigrants, unveiling a proposal late on Thursday to double the number of Dreamers the US would accept in exchange for billions in Wall funding, President Trump said on Friday that Republican senators - even those who have taken a tough approach to immigration such as Tom Cotton, John Cornyn and David Perdue - could agree to the unexpected proposal to offer citizenship within 10 to 12 years to so-called “Dreamers.”
“They’ve really shifted a lot, and I think they’re willing to shift more, and so am I,” the Republican president told CNBC in an interview from Davos. “We’re going to see. If we make the right deal, I think they will.”
The problem is that while a handful of republicans were happy with Trump's plan, many more were not even as the elephant in the room - or rather the donkey - remained the democrats. As we said yesterday, the fate of Trump's proposal - and by extension whether or not the government is shut down again on February 8 should there be no immigration deal - "depends on the Democrats' response which is yet to come."
And, as it turns out, early indications are not looking good, because as The Hill reports, Trump's immigration plan has slammed into heavy opposition on and off Capitol Hill, suggesting the much-anticipated framework has failed to move the needle as a bipartisan group of senators try to negotiate a deal.
While Trump is hoping the Senate will draft legislation based on his blueprint (it can be seen here)and introduce it by Feb. 5, just three days before funding for the government runs out, the day-old plan is already taking heavy fire from both the right and the left.
In some ways, it may now be even worse than before: for the bipartisan gang of 20 senators trying to hammer out an agreement to protect the "Dreamers," it’s clear the Trump outline — intended as an olive branch to Democrats — gets them no closer to a deal. One of the key negotiators of the group, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), warned that Trump’s plan places the White House’s "hardline immigration agenda … on the backs of these young people."
Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader who will need to sign off on any deal for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to pass the upper chamber, echoed those sentiments on Twitter on Friday. Trump is using DACA recipients as “a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hardliners have advocated for for years,” he wrote.
What is more surprising is how much pushback the Trump plan got from his own party.
In all, while Trump’s plan did get an endorsement from a pair of key conservatives, i.e., David Perdue and Tom Cotton, for the most part conservative outside groups, members of the House Freedom Caucus and other vocal immigration hard-liners all panned the White House plan, saying providing a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamers” amounted to “mass amnesty” for law breakers.
“Illegals have No Right to be here & have ALL violated our laws. This #Amnesty deal negotiates away American Sovereignty,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an immigration hawk, tweeted Friday.
The American People have a Right to enforcement of our laws & a Right to a sealed border. Illegals have No Right to be here & have ALL violated our laws. This #Amnesty deal negotiates away American Sovereignty.— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 26, 2018
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for reduced immigration, had embraced an immigration proposal by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). That bill includes a path to legalization for nearly 700,000 DACA recipients — the first time since 1986 that NumbersUSA has supported any proposal along those lines.
But the White House proposal goes too far for Beck.
"NumbersUSA has no choice but to oppose what is being suggested as the White House 'framework' for a mass amnesty," Beck said.
The pile up continued:
The outside conservative group Heritage Action described Trump’s plan as a “nonstarter” because it “expands the amnesty-eligible population,” while the head of the Center for Immigration Studies, an immigration restrictionist group, suggested Trump had betrayed the conservative base that had propelled him to the presidency.
“Time to start burning your #MAGA hats. Send pictures and I'll retweet,” Mark Krikorian tweeted.
And former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), appearing on Fox News on Friday, said he had “concerns” about the Trump plan.
The Ohio Republican said he favors the Goodlatte bill, which places greater emphasis on border-enforcement measures like mandating that all employers use E-Verify, ending chain migration, also known as family reunification, and cracking down on sanctuary cities.
If there is a “focus on DACA first and then a little pretend security and pretend border wall and pretend chain migration,” Jordan said, “that’s a different animal, and I won’t be for that, and neither will lots of conservatives, more importantly, lots of Americans.”
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Meanwhile, predictably, Democrats threw up all over Trump's plan. On the other end of the political spectrum, Democratic leaders, liberal groups and pro-immigration advocates accused Trump of holding Dreamers hostage while demanding draconian policies that would greatly curb legal immigration.
The plan calls for a $25 billion trust fund for border security — many times more than what Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had entertained in their bipartisan negotiations. It also would scrap the visa lottery system and severely limit family-based immigration, which Republicans call “chain migration.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an advocacy group that works closely with progressive members on immigration, said the White House plan "comes nowhere close to finding the sweet spot" for a bipartisan agreement.
"It is a far-right restructuring of our entire immigration system in trying exploit the crisis that was created by Trump ending DACA," he said.
Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and policy director for United We Dream, a youth network of Dreamer advocates, said Dreamers — even those benefited by the proposal — would not accept its price.
"The immigration proposal presented yesterday by the Trump White House is nothing more than a white supremacist ransom note. A 'Sophie’s choice' by an immoral and horrible man whose aim is to wipe immigrant families from this country," she said.
Like the Goodlatte bill, the White House proposal would cut legal immigration and change the methods by which immigrants are selected. John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said the proposal "decimates the family immigration system that has made this country so dynamic."
Democrats, wary of their base's reaction to the short-lived shutdown, took a similar tone.
"We cannot allow the lives of young people who have done everything right to be used as bargaining chips for sweeping anti-immigrant policies," said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) in a statement.
"The White House is using Dreamers to mask their underlying xenophobic, isolationist, and un-American policies, which will harm millions of immigrants living in the United States and millions of others who want to legally immigrate and contribute to our country," she said.
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In short, with one short proposal Trump managed to infuriate both Democrats and Republicans.
And while the White House proposal follows a well-worn formula in immigration negotiations — trading enforcement measures for legalizing blocs of immigrants in the country illegally, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Thursday warned, before the White House made its proposal public, that Republican enforcement demands were far outweighing their offer in terms of legalizations.
"It’s not reasonable to say that for a group of 700,000-800,000 students in this country, to ask what was negotiated for comprehensive immigration reform," he said.
Finally, with the White House unlikely to move much on its original proposal, Trump's gambit is that the Democrat will cave entirely lest they be blamed for the next government shutdown in exactly two weeks. The problem is that Schumer won't agree to a capitulation, and the most likely outcome is another government shutdown, only this time with no possibility of an olive branch, it will extend deep into February if not March.
Which is a problem, because as we discussed last week, should the shutdown extend into the debt ceiling X-Date period, expected to hit around mid-March, then not only are all bets off, but a US technical default suddenly looks especially likely.