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OPINION | On immigration, Mr. President, pick a fight — and win it

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On Tuesday morning, McClatchy News reported that a group including former and current White House chiefs of staff Reince Priebus and John Kelly, and Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are pushing the president to strike a deal with Congress “that offers Dreamers protection in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-Verify, an online system that allows business to check immigration status.”

That’s a bad deal for the president, and he should immediately direct his aides to stop their efforts.

“Dreamers” refers to the roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children who were the beneficiaries of President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, which allowed them to escape deportation and granted them work permits. Then-candidate Trump promised repeatedly on the campaign trail to overturn this illegal amnesty program upon winning the presidency.

{mosads}So, to this proposed “deal.” Since when does it make sense politically to renege on one major campaign promise to implement another? Aren’t winning candidates supposed to deliver on all their promises?


The problems with such a “deal” are obvious.

First, “Dreamers” are not legal, and the Trump administration knows it.

In June, the Trump administration formally rescinded another illegal Obama administration program, the so-called “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents,” or DAPA, which would have protected from deportation up to four million illegal immigrants. The program had never gone into effect, because a federal judge and a federal appeals court both ruled that President Obama had overstepped his constitutional authority in directing federal authorities to stop enforcing the laws on the books.

Then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — now the White House chief of staff — testified to that before Congress in June, saying he decided to rescind the DAPA policy “because there is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy.”

There is no reason to believe the DACA program would survive a legal challenge, either.

Texas and nine other states have joined together to pressure the Trump administration to overturn DACA. In a joint letter, the attorneys general of nine states and the governor of a tenth warned the Trump administration that failure to overturn DACA by September 5 would lead them to file a lawsuit challenging the program — a lawsuit they would most likely win, not least because Attorney General Jeff Sessions is known to be an opponent of the DACA program and would, absent direct orders from above, most likely instruct Department of Justice attorneys not to defend the policy.

Second, such a deal would confuse executive action with legislative action. President Trump needs no congressional action to rescind the DACA program; all he needs do is direct his attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security to enforce the laws on the books, rather than a legally dubious executive order from a previous administration. Why give Congress authority over constitutionally authorized executive branch actions?

Third, congressional Democrat leaders have already shot down the idea. Responding to the McClatchy report, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted that “Dreamers are not a bargaining chip for the border wall and inhumane deportation. Period,” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted that it was “reprehensible to treat children as bargaining chips,” and that “Dreamers are not negotiable.” This “deal” isn’t going anywhere, anyway.

So instead of pursuing a terrible deal, here’s an idea for the White House: Use the bully pulpit to make the case for border wall funding. 

The political argument against it is that because the filibuster exists, Senate Democrats have the power to block funding. 

They do, in fact — but only if all 48 of them vote to sustain a veto.

So send the president to West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Montana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – where there are Democratic Senators running for reelection in 2018 in states the president won in 2016 – and make the argument for funding the border wall.

Explain the success of the border wall in Yuma, Arizona, which saw an 82 percent drop in apprehensions of illegal border-crossers after 57 miles of wall and fencing infrastructure was built following the enactment of the 2006 Secure Fence Act.

Put Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.V.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Del.), Claire McCaskill (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Bob Casey (Penn.), and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) on the spot. Have the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee throw some advertising on the air, and work with grassroots groups like Tea Party Patriots and others to pressure these targeted senators back home.

In other words, pick a fight — and win it.

The president’s base wants a fight on this front. All it needs is leadership from the White House. 

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bill Nelson Bill Nelson Bob Casey Bob Casey Chuck Schumer Chuck Schumer Claire McCaskill Claire McCaskill DACA Debbie Stabenow Debbie Stabenow deferred action for childhood arrivals Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Heidi Heitkamp Illegal immigration to the United States Immigration Jeff Sessions Jeff Sessions Jenny Beth Martin Joe Donnelly Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Joe Manchin Jon Tester Jon Tester Sherrod Brown Sherrod Brown Tammy Baldwin Tammy Baldwin
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