Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer complained that trying to make a deal with President Donald Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.
Well, the latest Trump offer on immigration is more like slime because it stinks.
On the plus side, it would protect nearly 800,000 Dreamers – young people brought here illegally as children – and another 1 million who were eligible but haven’t enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And it could give all 1.8 million a path to citizenship in 10 to 12 years – a long-held goal of many Democrats.
But the plan – put out by the White House on Thursday – would, in effect, pit Dreamers against other groups of immigrants.
Trump wants to restrict family sponsorships of immigrants to spouses and minor children. That would limit what he and other critics call “chain migration,” but would close the door to adult children, parents and extended family members. It would divide families, and cut legal immigration – about 1 million a year – by about a quarter.
The plan also calls for eliminating the visa lottery, which allows 50,000 immigrants from underrepresented countries – mostly in Africa and Asia – to come to America each year, and give the visas instead to higher skilled immigrants.
These extreme changes would, over time, slow America’s diversity. They have the fingerprints of Stephen Miller, the former right-wing activist turned Trump adviser, all over them.
They may also put Democrats and immigrant advocates in a tough spot. Some quickly and angrily rejected the proposal, however.
“Trump’s latest salvo in his administration’s campaign to dehumanize immigrants is a grotesque and indecent proposal luring immigrant youth to conditional citizenship, while driving over the bodies of their parents, loved ones, and communities,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the largest immigrant rights organization in California, said in a statement.
“President Trump and Republicans cannot be allowed to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip for their wish list of anti-immigrant policies,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said in a statement Friday.
“The take-it-or-leave-it proposals put out by the White House will not make our country safer and will only serve to encourage illegal immigration because families will not be permitted to lawfully reunite,” she added.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco called the framework “an act of staggering cowardice” that tries to hold Dreamers “hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme.”
Dreamers, her statement said, “will not be ransomed for a hateful agenda that betrays our sacred American values.”
Finally, the framework proposes a $25 billion trust fund to pay for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and other security measures at ports and the U.S.-Canada border. If much of that goes to the wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for, that’s a huge waste of money. Sen. Bernie Sanders wasn’t wrong when he said on CNN this week that a wall “made sense in the 15th century” but is ridiculous in the 21st.
The one page “framework” also suggests there will be stiffer enforcement of immigration laws and more deportations.
The plan could be a starting point for negotiations. But then again, there’s real doubt about how strongly Trump will stand behind this plan. He has reneged before, and it’s difficult to trust a president who has so often demonized immigrants.
Also, conservatives are already saying the plan amounts to dreaded “amnesty.” His former friends at Breitbart are calling him “Amnesty Don,” which is sure to get under his skin.
Another big problem is that this framework leaves many, many details up in the air. The White House also handed out a one-page paper on tax reform, and look how that turned out for most Americans.
Even if a bill based on this proposal gets through the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are working on a compromise, conservatives in the House could block it from reaching the president’s desk. And we could be in another standoff and possible government shutdown around Feb. 8.