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Amnesty will be a poisonous prospect for politicians who support it

Amnesty will be a poisonous prospect for politicians who support it
© Greg Nash

Tuesday’s bipartisan meeting on immigration reform left many Americans scratching their heads. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE seemed to abandon the immigration enforcement principles he championed throughout his campaign for the White House. And Republican leaders appeared to defer to Democrat demands for a broad immigration amnesty. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a politically dicey issue for the GOP but you’d never know it, because lately most Republicans sound suspiciously like Democrats when discussing the latest iteration of immigration amnesty.

What, exactly, is the GOP’s official stance on rewarding immigration law-breakers? Republican voters aren’t sure. But they’ve given party leaders a pretty clear indication of what Middle America thinks it should be. Trump’s focus on meaningful immigration enforcement is what put a Republican in the White House.

And with a GOP president, and GOP majorities in the both the House and Senate, Republicans should be experiencing few difficulties in moving forward with the president’s immigration agenda. But that hasn’t been the case. In fact, those who received temporary “protection” under President Obama’s unlawful DACA program have been a particular sticking point — both with Democrats and some wayward Republicans.

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According to the popular Democrat narrative, the DACA “kids” are deserving folks and someone should be looking out for their interests. The Republican leadership seems to have accepted this claim at face value and can’t seem to let go of the notion that there are grave political consequences for not kowtowing to the illegal alien lobby. As a result, Democratic party leaders are attempting to negotiate a new amnesty from a position of strength, as if they hold all the cards. Meanwhile, Republicans dance on hot coals trying to figure out a way to look tough on immigration without actually being tough on illegal aliens.

 

However, Republican leaders have gotten it all wrong. They are actually holding all the cards. Voters sent their elected representatives a clear message during the 2016 elections: secure our borders and make immigration work for — not against — the American public. That same voting public did not call for an amnesty, and neither did the president they voted for. But instead of fulfilling the immigration promises the public voted on, some Republican leaders seem more focused on fulfilling an Obama promise to illegal aliens than they are in fulfilling promises to the American public.

Therefore, even though they seem unable to see the forest for the trees, Republicans find themselves in a win/win situation. All they have to do is avoid blinking. If they force Democratic leaders to the table and trade a limited DACA amnesty in exchange for an end to chain migration, mandatory E-Verify,  measures prohibiting sanctuary cites and a secure physical barrier on the southern border, they can claim victory. The Trump base will swallow the bitter amnesty pill, knowing that their interests were represented, and that the security of our borders should improve going forward.

Conversely, if Democrats overplay their hand, then DACA expires and Republicans avoid any possibility of being forced into an amnesty with nothing to show for it. In that case the GOP still wins, by simply not losing. The Democratic leadership will find itself in the unenviable position of having to justify its inability to obtain any concessions from a Republican party that was willing to negotiate in good faith. People who voted for Donald Trump will see Republicans as refusing to back down on the core issue that is most important to voters. Democrats, on the other hand, will be perceived as valuing the interests of foreign law breakers over those of American citizens.

Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously observed that “all politics is local.” But immigration is one of the rare circumstances where that maxim does not hold true. Border security is a national issue and rarely has a nation been so united in expressing a single political desire — secure our borders. Nevertheless, it is not clear that Republican legislators perceive the benefit of demanding that their Democrat counterparts put up or shut up or the necessity of calling their bluff should Democrats decide to do neither. One thing is certain however, if Republicans don’t rapidly consider a course correction, they will lose the faith voters placed in them in 2016.

Matt O’Brien is the former chief of the National Security Division within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as assistant chief counsel in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New York district. He is currently the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).