Trump proposed a ‘Dreamer’ pathway to citizenship — Democrats said ‘no’

Vice President Kamala Harris recently muddled through an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd. She raised eyebrows with her repeated assertion that the Southern border is secure, which is not true. But she also called on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for those who are undocumented. The irony is that it was Democrats, not Republicans, who killed the last, best chance to create that pathway, at least for “Dreamers.”

In January 2018, President Trump put an offer on the table, a proposal he and others had been working on since the previous September. He wanted Congress to provide $25 billion in funding to build a wall along the Southern border (even though he always said Mexico would pay for it).

“In exchange,” Reuters reported at the time, “he said he wanted to offer the Dreamers protection from deportation and an ‘incentive’ of citizenship, perhaps in 10 to 12 years.”

The “Dreamers” refers to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a 2012 executive order that allowed nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to avoid deportation and granted temporary lawful status, which included certain privileges such as work permits. Trump reportedly upped that number soon after to some 1.8 million people.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had been working on immigration reform, stated, “President Trump’s support for a pathway to citizenship will help us get strong border security measures as we work to modernize a broken immigration system.” It was a green flag for negotiations, not a white flag of surrender.

But Democrats resoundingly rejected the offer. While they pointed to several concerns with other parts of Trump’s proposal, border-wall funding was their real bête noire.

Trump returned to the issue a year later, in January 2019, during a partial government shutdown. He offered “three years of protections for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and those who fled certain countries and are covered under the ‘temporary protected status’ program,” according to NBC News. And he asked for only $5.7 billion.

Trump took a lot of heat from his base for making such an offer, but Democrats said no again. They didn’t even sit down for a give-and-take session, which is how you come to a compromise that both sides can live with.

The fact is that providing funding for Trump’s border wall had become toxic to Democrats and their aligned organizations. They would, I believe, have abandoned just about everything and everyone to keep Trump’s wall from being funded. They didn’t want him to get a win, even if it also meant a win for “Dreamers.”

Critics of Republican governors who have been busing illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities are accusing those governors of using immigrants as political pawns. Well, by refusing to take what would have been an important first step for creating a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” that’s what Democrats did — and they did it first.

And here’s how you know for sure that the border wall/“Dreamers” standoff was soaked in partisan politics. The Intercept is just out with a story that the Biden administration has decided to continue Trump’s border wall construction. Yes, you read that correctly.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that work on the border wall that began under Trump is revving back up under Biden,” writes the Intercept. The big difference, Democrats claim, is that they will build it in an environmentally friendly way.

The “Dreamers” are the most sympathetic of the illegal immigrant groups. Lots of people who would adamantly oppose Harris’s “pathway to citizenship” for virtually any undocumented immigrant would have supported, or at least not strongly opposed, giving the “Dreamers” a chance at citizenship.

I don’t recall any Senate Democrat, including then-Sen. Harris (D-Calif.), speaking out for Trump’s deal. So, the “Dreamers” remain in limbo, and Democrats are building Trump’s wall.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.

Tags Biden administration border wall funding Dreamers Dreamers. Biden immigration Kamala Harris Kamala Harris

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