Trump Downplays Chance of Amnesty-for-Wall Deal

US President Donald Trump speaks at the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, on December 7, 2018. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump used an interview with the Wall Street Journal to downplay expectations that the 17-member bipartisan panel on border security will propose an amnesty-for-wall deal.

The newspaper asked Trump on Sunday if the panel might propose an amnesty for DACA migrants. He responded:

“I doubt it,” he said, when asked if he would agree to citizenship for a group of immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, in exchange for border-wall funding.

“That’s a separate subject to be taken up at a separate time,” said Mr. Trump, a Republican. Earlier this month, the president offered three years of temporary protections for Dreamers as part of a broader proposal, but Democrats said they wanted more permanent protections, including a path to citizenship, for those immigrants.

The group of 17 House and Senate legislators has a less than a half chance of coming up with a deal, said Trump. “I personally think it’s less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board,” he said.

Trump also kept up his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding, saying, “As long as it can stop criminals, gangs, human trafficking and drugs, I’m open to anything. But the only thing that will work is a very strong form of physical barrier.”

Trump also told the Wall Street Journal that he can use emergency powers to build the wall.

The Senate and House panel is expected to draft a compromise policy by February 15, but many Democrats are now arguing that any border wall is “racist” because it would largely curb migration by Latino migrants.

But business groups are pushing White House aides hard to strike a deal that would help stop rising wages by importing more foreign workers, such as university trained visa workers. Wages rose by 3.2 percent in 2018, diverting corporate revenues from profits into wages.

Rising wages threaten to cap investors’ stock-market growth, but they also give Trump a political edge by boosting voters before his 2020 re-election. For example, ABC7 in Chicago reported that Walmart is dramatically raising wages for truck drivers:

Walmart is looking to hire more truck drivers this year, and it’s paying nearly $90,000 a year.

The pay increase comes as the company faces an industry-wide shortage of drivers.

Last year, Walmart hired 1,400 truckers. This year, they plan to hire even more.

Disabled Americans are also gaining fast because employers are being forced to hire people they would prefer not to hire in Trump’s “Hire American” economy, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Since Inauguration Day, when Trump promised his “Hire American” economic policy, 370,000 unemployed disabled people have left welfare and gotten jobs, the paper said:

“This is really quite a dramatic turnaround,” said Nicole Maestas, an economist at Harvard Medical School who studies the disability system. “Employment among people with disabilities had been declining for a really long time—now it’s not. And it’s not transitory. It’s been increasing for a few years.”

The Journal interviewed a person with autism who can now afford his own home:

Nathan Mort has often struggled to find and hold a job. A conservation group once declined his attempt to volunteer. The 37-year-old West Michigan native, who has a high-functioning form of autism, ended up living with his parents and dependent on government payments.

His fortunes turned several years ago when a local food distributor, Gordon Food Service, found itself short of entry-level workers and developed an internship program for adults with disabilities. Mr. Mort was hired from the program permanently to track warranty claims for the company’s trucks and other equipment. That allowed him to stop collecting federal disability benefits and move into his own home.

Amid the good news for employees, there is little incentive for politicians to seal a deal that would anger slices of the electorate before 2020. The risk is high, partly because Americans have contradictory preferences. Voters want to welcome new arrivals, but they more strongly oppose companies’ use of immigration to cut wages and sideline Americans.

The 2013 “Gang of Eight” amnesty, for example, was widely praised by the establishment and the D.C. media. But it proved disastrous for two of its leading participants: It wrecked GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential prospects, and it cost Sen. Chuck Schumer nine Democratic seats and the Senate majority after November 2014.

The huge and complex bill also upended the D.C. establishment by supercharging the outsider campaign of Donald Trump, a New York real estate developer.

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