The immigration fight isn’t really about the Dreamers — it’s all politics

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President Trump’s immigration proposal offers a pathway to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million people, most of whom were brought to the United States as minors. Despite the generosity of the president’s immigration proposal to these so-called Dreamers, the far left is committed to continuing nasty, racially divisive rhetoric, with the ACLU tweeting that the proposal is “hateful” and benefits only “white supremacists.” Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez tweeted that the proposal is a “middle finger” to Latin America.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, allowed approximately 800,000 individuals to stay, without any path to citizenship, for renewable three-year periods under his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. If the Trump proposal is a hateful middle finger to Hispanics, presumably Obama’s much narrower order was a violent assault. Yet the far left’s leaders, including Congressman Gutierrez, praised DACA as an “antidote for do-nothingism” and now thinks that Trump’s more robust proposal — replete with a path to citizenship — is a surefire sign of xenophobia.

{mosads}Such comments imply that the far left’s goal is not finding a workable solution for Dreamers but instead, keeping their base ginned up with hatred toward President Trump. By reflexively crying racism in response to reasonable policy proposals — which would achieve far more than any Democratic president or Congress has ever achieved — the political left undermines its credibility and suggests its goal is sowing racial division, not solving problems. It evinces a preference for “do-nothingism” over good-faith negotiation.


The chief objection of the political left to Trump’s proposal seems to be that it would end chain migration, end the visa lottery program in favor of merit-based visas, and build a wall along much of the southern border. Yet a recent Harvard-Harris poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans support each of these commonsense reforms.

The poll found that 79 percent of Americans — including 72 percent of Hispanics and 85 percent of blacks — think that immigration policy should be reoriented toward an individual’s “ability to contribute to America as measured by their education and skills,” rather than “having relatives in the U.S.” And the same percentage, 79 percent — including 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of blacks — agreed that the United States “need[s] secure borders.” Fifty-four percent support “building a combination of physical and electronic barriers across the U.S.-Mexico border,” including 53 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of blacks. As for ending the visa lottery program, the poll shows that it is wildly unpopular: opposed by 68 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Hispanics and 57 percent of blacks.

These numbers show that Trump’s immigration proposal is on the right track. Far from being a white supremacists’ dream, the Trump proposal reflects the desires of a majority of Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity. The far left’s chief objection to the president’s proposal thus appears unrelated to its substance, and is instead grounded on the fact that it comes from Donald Trump. If the same proposal had come from Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, it likely would have been hailed as bold leadership.

If the country is going to make progress on seemingly intractable issues, all sides need to be willing to compromise and judge policy proposals on their merits. A reflexive attitude of “we don’t like you so we won’t negotiate with you” is a guarantee of do-nothingness. Compromise requires, well, compromise.  

A leader does not shut down the government if he doesn’t immediately get his way. A leader does not cry racism when his political opponent gives him the bulk of what he wanted. A leader does not shift the goalposts and demand more after getting a significant concession. Americans who are not complete ideologues understand this. Politicians who continue to engage in such childish tactics will pay the price in November, particularly those in purple districts with large numbers of independent voters.

The next few weeks will test whether the left’s leaders have a good-faith commitment to compromise. Will they stop counterproductive rhetoric and come to the table to solve this problem? Or will they dig in their heels, amplify the cries of racism and xenophobia, and shut down the government again? We are about to find out.

Elizabeth Price Foley practices constitutional law in Washington, D.C., and is a professor of constitutional law at Florida International University College of Law in Miami.   

Tags Barack Obama deferred action for childhood arrivals Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Luis Gutierrez
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