The Corner


New DACA Proposal Doesn’t Promote Key GOP Interests

DACA supporters outside the White House, September 2017 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In response to DHS Condemns Schumer-Rounds-Collins Immigration Bill

To follow up on Robert VerBruggen’s points about how the Schumer-Rounds-King amendment might end up incentivizing future illegal immigration: The provisions of this bill suggest that, in addition to its myriad policy shortcomings, it fails to meet the fundamental political challenge facing Republicans on DACA.

For months now, Republicans have faced the following balancing act. A DACA amnesty might poll well, but core elements of the Republican base boil with rage at the thought of any amnesty. Immigration politics has pulled down a House majority leader and more than a few Republican presidential aspirants. In the November midterms, even a mildly depressed base could spell disaster for the party.

Thus, if Republicans are going to pass some DACA amnesty, an obvious solution to this challenge would be to combine this amnesty with other significant reforms to both the enforcement and legal-immigration systems. These reforms would have policy and political justifications. Reforms could keep a DACA amnesty from leading to even more illegal immigration; they could also help create an immigration system that better encourages integration and opportunity. In making up for amnesty, theses structural reforms could also help minimize the risk of political blowback from core GOP voters.

Those political and policy dynamics in part explain why the White House has been pushing a “four pillars” approach to DACA. They also explain why the Schumer-Rounds-King proposal falls short in terms of the political interests of Republicans. The bill makes few changes to the chain-migration system. Contrary to the talking points of the bill’s proponents, it doesn’t even stop DACA recipients from sponsoring their parents. It only bars sponsorship if these parents “knowingly” helped these recipients “enter” the U.S. illegally (see page 30 of the bill text). There are plenty of loopholes there. The onus would likely be on the U.S. government to prove that a parent “knowingly” helped this child immigrate illegally. Moreover, the text of the legislation specifies “enter,” so it would be possible that a parent who brought a child into the U.S. legally on a temporary visa but then overstayed that visa (and many illegal immigrants are visa-overstays) could still be sponsored under Schumer-Rounds-King: The child didn’t enter illegally.

The bill’s instructions to de-prioritize enforcing immigration laws against people who arrive in 2018 might be especially infuriating to Republican voters. In a press event earlier today, Susan Collins (one of the cosponsors) said that the legislation would be revised to push that de-prioritization date back to January 1, 2018 (from June 30, 2018). But this change in date doesn’t affect the fact that this supposed “bipartisan” compromise would try to impose new limits on the ability of the federal government to enforce immigration laws. Amnesty is a bitter pill to swallow for many Republican voters; amnesty plus restrictions on the enforcement of immigration law would be asking GOP voters to swallow a tack.

Midterms can be brutal enough for a president’s party, but a bad deal on DACA (one that not only fails to achieve center-right immigration priorities but actually undermines them) would only make a cruel November even more likely for the GOP.


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