The Corner


What to Watch out for in Any Immigration Deal

President Trump holds a photo at a roundtable discussion on border security at the White House, January 11, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Who would’ve thought President Trump would be the adult in the room?

But the immigration proposal he announced Saturday was a responsible compromise to end the partial government shutdown. The border-security part of the package (which includes more than walls) is one that could easily have been offered by Obama or Clinton, back before Democrats decided that borders are immoral. (See the bill here.)

And his offer to trade this for what amounts to an extension of the expiration dates for a total of about 1 million DACA and TPS illegal aliens with ostensibly temporary work permits is not what many immigration hawks had feared — a new, from-scratch amnesty encompassing illegal aliens who had not already been granted work permits under prior administrations. Both programs should be abolished, of course, but enabling already-amnestied illegals to keep their work permits a little longer as a sweetener for Democrats isn’t unreasonable, despite the objections of many of my fellow immigration hawks.

(One sweetener for them — us — would be an explicit statement in the bill that Obama acted unlawfully in creating DACA without Congress. Even apart from the immigration issue, such a provision is essential if our legislature has any intention of preserving its constitutional prerogatives.)

But one thing the critics are right about is that with this as the starting point, the bill will likely move to the left. As the editors have noted, “we fear any prospective deal only gets weaker from here.” In other words, when the Democrats filibuster the measure, which is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate Thursday, will congressional Republicans and White House start giving even more ground?

It seems likely. Already this morning Axios is reporting that “[a] new immigration idea has been circulating over the past 24 hours at senior levels inside the White House and on Capitol Hill: Give a path to green cards to the 700,000 current DACA recipients.”

This would be a deal-killer. I have no problem with giving green cards to DACA recipients under certain circumstances — yes, Obama illegally created the amnesty without Congress, but it’s been in place since 2012 and has created facts on the ground. But upgrading the DACA recipients from their current amnesty-lite to amnesty-premium would require the inclusion of measures to limit the fallout of such a move. They would have to include additional steps to address the illegal immigration a new amnesty like that would attract, such as mandating E-Verify, as well as legal-immigration reductions intended both to offset the amnesty numerically and to limit the immigration benefits that the relatives of the DACA recipients could receive from their new status.

Another way the bill could get weaker would be to strip out the limited measures it includes to address the asylum crisis (which have already elicited howls of protest from the libertarian/leftist front). The majority of arrests at the Mexican border are now Central American minors and families using asylum claims as a strategy for illegally immigrating. The bill would make it somewhat easier to repatriate “unaccompanied” minors (who are almost always brought to the border by smugglers), though it would do little to address the larger “catch and release” practice dictated by other legal loopholes (other than some increased funding for detention).

My guess is Republicans could hold together in backing the deal in its current form — though even that’s iffy, given that Numbers USA has announced it will score the vote for its grade cards. But if the amnesty component grows, the bill would have little chance.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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