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Chief of Staff Kelly Set Up President Trump for Amnesty Fiasco

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly ensured that President Donald Trump was literally surrounded by amnesty boosters the night he agreed to give away a huge, expensive and unpopular amnesty in exchange for an empty bag of “border security” promises.

The September 13 amnesty deal has proved so half-baked and disastrous that Kelly and other top officials have promised to develop a new immigration reform plan within ten days which matches Trump’s 2016 campaign proposals.

The Kelly set-up was exposed by the seating chart, which seated Trump between the two Democratic leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and  Rep. Nancy Pelosi. According to the Washington Post:

Act One was the dinner itself, a meal of honey sesame crispy beef, sticky rice and chocolate cream pie for dessert, with Schumer and Pelosi flanking Trump on both sides.

Another person in the room was Trump’s congressional relations chief, Marc Short, who is a former president of a Koch brothers’ pro-immigration group.  On September 12, he suggested the president should trade his campaign promise of a border wall in exchange for tax-breaks sought by CEOs. On a Friday MSNBC show, Short admitted the September 13 seating was deliberate when he answered a question from MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson about Pelosi being ignored by other politicians at the meeting, saying:

I was there, Hallie … The conversation was one that was very friendly and very jovial, and I don’t recall any conversation about women being left out of the conversation. In fact, we seated Nancy Pelosi right next to the president so her opinions could be heard.

Trump was partly supported in the meeting by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who asked, “What exactly does the president get out of this deal?” But Ross is also an advocate for using immigration to help companies cut salaries for white-collar professionals.

There is no evidence that Trump or his aides recognized the huge scale, unpopularity and massive costs of the Democrats’ demands, which would likely exceed $100 billion over the next 10 years.

The organization of the meeting reflects Kelly’s tight control over the president’s aides, briefings and information, to the point of throttling Trump’s access to immigration reformers and to mainstream media outlets, including Breitbart News. That tight leash is highlighted by multiple media reports, including a Politico article about Trump’s push to get funding for an extended border wall:

Few staff members in the West Wing are as concerned about it [as the President], senior administration officials said.

Some in the White House have urged Trump not to focus as much on the wall, try to pass a clean debt-ceiling bill and move to tax reform. “You have barely anyone here saying, ‘Wall, wall, we have to get the wall at all costs,’” one White House official said …

Two people who have spoken to Trump said he sees not building the wall as a personal embarrassment — and that he has shown more interest in building the wall than in other issues, like the upcoming budget negotiations. “You don’t want a government shutdown,” the White House official said. “He is told that. He says, ‘I want money for the wall.’”

Axios reported:

Instead of being able to march into the Oval Office and hand Trump the latest Breitbart headline or printouts of tweets showing how badly his amnesty drive is playing with his fiercest nationalist supporters, aides opposing the decision would now have to go through the Kelly process, which would involve submitting an official, documented, request to meet with the president.

The result: Trump gets mostly positive feedback for his turn towards bipartisanship. He watches cable news in the morning, and even “Fox and Friends” finds a way to praise his deal with the Democrats. He reads his morning news clips and briefing materials, which are managed by Staff Secretary Rob Porter, under the guidance of Kelly. And during the day it’s not possible for a staff member to sneak a story onto Trump’s desk that might rile him up and turn him in a wildly different direction in an instant.

Bottom line: Staff who oppose the moderate immigration turn no longer have unfettered access to Trump, and nor do allies on the outside who, in the first six months of the administration, used to send text messages to Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, and often receive a snappy callback from the president. Kelly now has real control over the most important input: the flow of human and paper advice into the Oval Office. For a man as obsessed about his self-image as Trump, a new flow of inputs can make the world of difference.

The public’s protest against the Kelly-brokered amnesty has proved to be disastrous for Trump. Even Trump’s former press secretary, Sean Spicer, said Friday that Trump has to win a border wall. Spicer used to work for the GOP, which has long opposed a border wall. He told Fox News:

I don’t see how you get a deal done that doesn’t include the wall because that’s been a major priority of this president. So he’s going to get the best deal he can and negotiate, that’s what he’s always done, and I think at the end of the day, he’s going to make sure his priorities are part of a deal that gets made.

Two days after the no-wall-amnesty deal that he helped arrange, Short and other officials denied that any deal was made, and promised to revive Trump’s campaign trail reform agenda. For example, Short told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson September 15 that:

We, the administration, has consistently said the need for a wall. Obviously, that was an important part of the president’s campaign. We want the wall. It’s important to remember, Hallie, that in 2006 the Secure Fence Act passed the Senate by a vote of 80-19 that authorized 700 miles of wall along the southwest border. Chuck Schumer voted for that bill. The problem is Congress never appropriated the dollars to fund it. But Congress actually passed legislation in 2006 to support a wall along 700 miles of the southwest border. We want to get back to saying our national security interests have only become more severe in the last 11 years. not less. so let’s go back and look at what Congress is already supporting as a starter point for why we need to make sure there’s a physical barrier along the southwest border.

On Friday, Trump’s press secretary said officials are also developing a full set of immigration-reform proposals over the next seven to 10 days. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters:

We’re going to be laying out what our specific priorities and principles are in that front over the next 7-10 days. We’ll make sure that you guys are all part of that … Some of the specific things that we’d probably like to see: End to sanctuary cities, expedited removal, more immigration judges, supporting things like the RAISE Act, those are things that you’ll see us focus on and talk more about in the coming days.

Trump also tried to shift the focus from his amnesty deal to his August support for reductions in chain-migration, which could double the impact — and unpopularity — of a “Dream” amnesty up seven or eight million people over the next ten years.

Short described some of the renewed priorities, telling MSNBC that the White House wants more than a wall:

What we have [agreed with Schumer and Pelosi is] simply that Congress failed to solve this problem for years and now we need to move quickly because the actions of the Obama administration took were unlawful. It’s important to remember there’s a lot of elements that the president ran on like immigration reform. Ending illegal immigration is an important part, but also interior enforcement is critical to this administration … We have asked in our budget for 10,000 additional ICE [enforcement] agents because people are overstaying their visas. That’s a national priority, we know where they are but don’t have agents to enforce the laws of the country.

MSNBC: Is there a scenario under which the president will support a path to citizenship for dreamers.

Short: That is not a discussion that we are currently entertaining. I am not going to negotiate on your network, as much as I would like to on behalf of the president. That’s for him to make final determinations on, but [is] not something we are entertaining. We want to make sure we end chain migration and make sure there’s interior enforcement. We also want to make sure we change our system to a merit-based system. Rather than a lottery, we want to know where the economy demands jobs. It’s the way that some other countries work, their immigration systems are successful, and it is something this administration wants to push as well.

The White House declined to comment for this article.

However, immigration reformers remain very skeptical about Trump’s understanding of, and determination, to reform the nation’s economy-distorting immigration system. They are suspicious of most top aides, including Short, economic advisor Gary Cohn who was a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, and Kelly himself who has a short history in the very tangled, high-stakes politics of immigration.

For example, Kelly urged a DACA amnesty when he implemented Trump’s policies when serving at the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. In a September 9 email to Fox News, Kelly wrote: “During my time at DHS – from 20 Jan until this moment – I have met with hundreds of members on both sides of the hill … My [message] always was ‘I have bought you time to do something on DACA.’  I begged and pleaded with them. They did exactly nothing.”

Kelly has also reportedly sidelined Steve Miller, who was Trump’s main advisor on immigration issues during the campaign. Miller knows the politics, polling, and economics of the issue, having worked as Senator Jeff Sessions’ right-hand man during the successful campaign to stop the 2013 cheap-labor-and-amnesty “Gang of Eight” bill. Trump aide Kellyanne Conway knows the polling even better, having been the first pollster to recognize the public’s simultaneous respect for migrants and their growing worry about immigration’s impact on wages and work. That insight was key to Sessions’ 2013 win and to Trump’s successful 2016 campaign.

Kelly, however, has also admitted he was displeased by the tough pressure Congress put on him to expand the H-2B cheap-labor program. In May, Kelly showed that he disliked the very many guest-worker outsourcing programs used by companies to displace millions of Americans each year, telling a Senate committee that:

This is one of things I really wish I did not have any discretion, and for every Senator or Congressman that has your view, I have another one that says ‘Don’t you dare, this is about American jobs.’ You know the argument, both sides. My staff, members of my staff, are coordinating with the Department of Labor on this. One of the things, and I have my working class root background that keeps reminding me that some of these individuals —not necessarily in Alaska — but many, many of these individuals are victimized when they come up here, in terms of what they’re paid and all the rest of it, so we’re working with Labor, Department of Labor, to come up with an answer to this, but we really do need a long-term solution, so we’ll work with the Senate and with Congress, within the industry, this year, and again, I’ll have my staff when they return from Labor and we get some protocols in place, we’ll likely increase the numbers for this year, perhaps not by the entire number that I’m authorized, but we really do need, I’m really looking forward to working with you Senator, and the whole Congress, to get a longer-term solution to this.

Four million Americans turn 18 each year and begin looking for good jobs. However, the government imports roughly 1 million legal immigrants to compete against Americans for jobs.

The government also hands out almost 3 million short-term work permits to foreign workers. These permits include roughly 330,000 one-year OPT permits for foreign graduates of U.S. colleges, roughly 200,000 three-year H-1B visas for foreign white-collar professionals, and 400,000 two-year permits to DACA illegals.

That Washington-imposed policy of mass-immigration floods the market with foreign laborspikes profits and Wall Street values by cutting salaries for manual and skilled labor offered by blue-collar and white-collar employees. It also drives up real estate priceswidens wealth-gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts kids’ schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines at least 5 million marginalized Americans and their families, including many who are now struggling with opioid addictions.

Amid the huge inflow of new workers, wages for men have remained flat since 1973, and the percentage of working Americans has declined steadily for the last few decades:

 

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