Four red flags for conservatives in Trump's amnesty compromise

Four red flags for conservatives in Trump's amnesty compromise
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Trump unveiled his immigration plan last week to hysteria from the left and uncertainty from the right. From a candidate who promised to “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties,” the proposal represents a sharp turn that provides amnesty to nearly two million people.

The White House believes that providing amnesty of this magnitude is necessary to get any meaningful reforms, like a border wall, through the Congress. However, in making huge concessions on long-standing priorities for Republicans, conservatives worry that the plan trades away too much for too little in return and does long-standing damage to American sovereignty, security and the rule of law.


Here are four issues in the Trump plan that have raised red flags for conservatives.


Expanded amnesty giveaway 

Far from just focusing on just the 700,000 illegal immigrants currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump’s plan expands amnesty to all “DACA-eligible” illegal immigrants, which includes those who never applied for DACA status in the first place. According to the White House, this translates to roughly two million people, though immigration experts say that is a lowball number.

Republicans have long maintained that any immigration proposal must not include amnesty of any form. By beginning a negotiation with an offer of amnesty to millions, Trump is moving the baseline for Republicans, harming the party’s future negotiating position. And this is after months of no movement by Democrats to offer any concessions to Republicans. 

As Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry DeSantis tops Trump in 2024 presidential straw poll White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas) said, providing a path to citizenship to those here illegally is “inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.” 

Amnesty now, border security later (maybe) 

Another critical issue with the proposal is its failure to link massive amnesty concessions with the completion of meaningful security reforms. Trump wants $25 billion for the border wall but appears willing to provide amnesty up-front without first ensuring that the border is first secured. As we’ve seen in the past, Democrats play games with border walls.

Yet again, Republicans seem willing to fall for the “wimpy gambit,” giving Democrats what they want today for a “guarantee” of future policies down the road. If security measures fail to be enforced, as some believe is likely, more illegal immigrants may pour into the U.S., and the amnesty cycle will repeat.

Ending chain migration could take decades, if it happens at all 

A highly touted section of the proposal “ends” chain migration for the extended family members of incoming immigrants. The chain migration phenomenon is responsible for explosive growth in migration numbers, accounting for 60 percent of the 33 million immigrants admitted to the United States from 1981 to 2016. The Trump plan claims it will curtail this growth by limiting family sponsorships to only spouses and minor children. 

A closer examination reveals that the Trump plan will indeed impose limits on chain migration — in about 10 to 20 years. The White House proposal doesn’t actually provide any meaningful limitations on chain migration until the current four million immigrants awaiting entry are processed. Moreover, those reforms are even less likely to materialize considering that 20 years is more than enough time for Democrats to have reversed Trump’s chain migration policy when electoral outcomes change. 

A more accurate characterization of the chain migration policy in Trump’s proposal is to say it “maybe-someday-but-more-than-likely-won’t” end chain migration.

Diminishes the meaning of the rule of law and American citizenship. 

By definition, “amnesty” is a program that reflects better treatment of law-breaking immigrants than their law-abiding counterparts. The White House is proposing to reward two million law-breaking immigrants while millions of law-abiding immigrants are stuck in a seemingly arbitrary and perpetually frustrating legal structure. By rewarding those who chose to bypass the system, we are diminishing the standing and dignity of those who sought to respect the law.

Perhaps more troubling, however, is the willingness of Republicans to use citizenship as nothing more than a chit to be traded. As Angelo Codevilla noted recently, “citizenship determines who shall rule, to what ends, and what life among us shall be.” Ultimately, citizenship confers upon its recipients the chance to have a say in running the country.

Tossing it on the table like a wager debases the sacred trust that determines our sovereignty and self-rule. The consequences of this behavior will linger long after the parties have moved on from this particular political battle. How we treat the nature of our rights as Americans will determine the future, nature and success of our country for years to come. 

By giving in to the overwhelming desire to “fix” a problem and “cut a deal,” Republicans are in danger of betraying years of campaign promises and demoralizing their supporters, who are already reeling from the failure to repeal ObamaCare. Democrats have repeatedly shown that they will settle for nothing less than a full amnesty for all illegal immigrants residing in the United States, and their position has been rejected at the ballot box time and time again. Yet, Republican promises of border security and merit based reform enjoy popular support.

The question is, how much are Republicans willing to give away until victory becomes meaningless?

Rachel Bovard (@RachelBovard) is senior director of policy, and Wesley Denton is senior director of communications, for The Conservative Partnership, a nonprofit group headed by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint aimed at promoting limited government.