Analysis: Donald Trump Is Getting Rolled on DACA

Pelosi, Schumer J. Scott ApplewhiteAP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

President Donald Trump and Democratic Party leaders have reached a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — or they are very near a deal, after a dinner Wednesday night between Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-NY).

The rough terms are that DACA beneficiaries can stay in the U.S., in exchange for “border security.” That is not a good deal for Trump.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump let slip just how bad the deal is. He insisted that the border wall “will continue to be built,” though the government has not even chosen a design and contractor for the wall, let alone funded it.

He also adopted Democrats’ talking points in favor of DACA (“good, educated and accomplished young people … no fault of their own”) and mentioned “BIG border security” without any further elaboration.

Earlier on Wednesday, I laid out three conditions that Trump should insist upon before agreeing to any deal on DACA: 1. There can be no path to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries; 2. The border wall must be funded; and 3. Border security must come before legal status for DACA beneficiaries.

We do not know the details of the DACA deal yet — nor do our leaders — but the parameters that are being discussed suggest that Trump is “getting rolled.”

That is clearest with regard to conditions #2 and #3. Republicans have agreed, up front, to handle the wall issue through the appropriations process, rather than insisting on it as a condition for legalizing DACA. Theoretically, President Trump could revive his threat to shut down the government if the Senate does not fund the wall (it will pass the House). But he has already caved once — albeit in the wake of a natural disaster — and so that threat is less credible than it was. One thing is certain: the Democrats do not fear a shutdown, because they are convinced they will not be blamed for it. And his campaign promise to build a border wall is not their problem. It is entirely his.

Trump has also said nothing about making sure that “BIG border security” comes before legal status for DACA recipients. The failure to put the former before the latter is exactly why the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill failed in the House in 2013. Republican voters did not elect Trump in 2016 to pass what Barack Obama could not.

The fate of condition #1 is murkier. No one, yet, has said anything about citizenship. But moderate Republicans are already signaling that they are willing to go there.

On Wednesday, Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) announced that he is co-sponsoring the “DREAM Act” — the legislation Democrats could not pass when they controlled both houses of Congress — and that beneficiaries would ” earn lawful permanent residence, and eventually American citizenship.”

(Update: The White House is already beginning to discuss “citizenship” for DACA beneficiaries:

That would mean condition #1 has been broken.)

The “DACA deal” is beginning to look like a cave. The only way its terms can be strengthened — in the absence of presidential veto threats, which seem very unlikely at this stage — is if conservatives insist on the so-called Hastert rule, under which the Speaker of the House will agree not to bring legislation to the floor unless it is supported by a majority of the Republican caucus. But Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is clearly strongly in favor of legalizing DACA.

On the positive side, Trump’s DACA deal may reflect the preferences of the majority of the American public. And he is working in a bipartisan manner, which Obama never did.

But there seems to be no sense of what a deal means for his other promises on immigration. And some Trump supporters are beginning to feel confused — and betrayed.

There is something Clintonesque about Trump’s approach. After losing Congress in 1994, Bill Clinton famously undercut his Republican opponents by adopting many of their policies. He revived his political fortunes and went on to be re-elected, easily, while the economy boomed.

Trump may hope to use similar triangulation to improve his approval ratings and weaken opposition to his policies on tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

But Clinton always had the backing of the mainstream media, even when he was impeached. Trump can expect no favors from them, nor from the Democrats.

And the lesson of the DACA deal may turn out to be that all the media and the Democrats have to do to manipulate a Republican is to call him or her a racist for long enough. Even for Donald Trump, who won his stunning victory in 2016 by standing up to the media, there may be a breaking point.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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