President Trump held a meeting at the White House yesterday that U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham summed-up as “Most fascinating meeting I’ve been involved with in twenty plus years in politics.” The topic was immigration, and the cameras were rolling for this forty-five minute public meeting of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Cabinet Room. The President and his team certainly had Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House in mind when this meeting was scheduled. In contrast to the book’s description of the Commander-In-Chief, President Trump seemed calm, cool, and collected as he met with lawmakers over the future of the DREAM Act and border security. While the White House may have accomplished a recasting of the President’s image, the policy implications of the meeting are unclear.
At one point in the conversation, Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California suggested to the President that he agree to a “clean” passage of the DACA / DREAM Act. This is Democrat code speak for “don’t include any border security, just pass what we want, as we want it, right now!” The suggestion is, on its face, absurd. The reason that DACA is even being debated is that border security has been lax at best, and significant levels of illegal immigration have been allowed into the United States for decades. The minor children of illegal immigrants who broke U.S. law to come to America are the beneficiaries of any legislative form of DREAM Act, as they have benefited from DACA. Dreamers, as they are known, are the children of unauthorized immigrants who were brought to America in prior waves of illegal immigration. Passing a pathway to permanent status and / or citizenship for these young people, without border security measures, will serve only to encourage future waves of illegal immigration.
President Trump, at first blush, seemed to agree with Senator Feinstein that the bill should be passed as a stand-alone measure, which would violate his own demands that any DACA / DREAM Act deal must contain greater border security measures and funding for those measures. The President’s stunning seeming agreement with Senator Feinstein prompted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to chime in that “”Mr. President, you need to be clear, though, I think what Sen. Feinstein is asking here, when we talk about just DACA, we don’t want to be back here two years later. You have to have [border] security [in the bill], as the secretary would tell you.” It was an amazing moment, wherein the second-in-command of the House GOP Caucus had to remind the President of the position he has taken with regard to DACA and border security.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later sought to clarify the President’s seeming agreement with Senator Feinstein with regard to a clean DACA bill. In her afternoon press briefing, Sanders said that “He only embraced it if you look at the president’s definition of what a clean DACA bill is, and within that bill, he thinks that you have to include not just fixing DACA, but closing the loopholes and making sure we have a solution on that front so we don’t create a problem and find ourselves right back where we started one, two, three years later.” Let’s hope Sanders is right; passage of a DACA bill without border security measures and closed loopholes would exacerbate America’s illegal immigration problem, not solve it.
I believe that a legislative solution to replace DACA is both appropriate and good policy. We should not punish children for the mistakes of their parents, and we do not want to be in the position of attempting to deport young people who have never known a home other than America. This being said, while we do the just and compassionate thing for approximately 800,000 young people caught in this legal limbo, we must not move to grant amnesty to over 12,000,000 people who willfully, knowingly broke America’s immigration laws. DACA must not become a hobby horse for blanket amnesty. Further, we must include, as a condition of passage, enhanced border security measures, better visa entry / exit tracking systems, and close loopholes that would allow a legislative DACA / DREAM Act bill to be exploited to further chain migration policies. We can and should be compassionate to young people seeking a better life, free of legal limbo. We should not, however, allow our compassion to cloud good judgement when it comes to securing our nation’s borders and immigration system.