GOP must now reject Trump’s demands on immigration

GOP must now reject Trump’s demands on immigration
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The Trump administration, like Lucy with Charlie Brown, pulled the immigration football away from reformers in Congress.

President TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE promised in January to sign any deal the Congress brought him — as long as it included a wall. The bipartisan Schumer-Rounds-Collins Common Sense Coalition in the Senate agreed to his terms: $25 billion for a border wall in exchange for a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

But in an unusual post-midnight broadside, his Department of Homeland Security savaged their proposal. The criticism, followed by presidential tweets and a veto threat, demanding even more concessions, ultimately crushed the coalition’s bill.

The divide-and-conquer politics of the Trump administration is turning the GOP inside out and at stake is the soul of the party.

The tradeoff Trump sabotaged — pricing out at $13,889 a head for the Dreamers — though expedient, was unworthy.  Bargaining with the hopes and aspirations of these young people has a “Hunger Games” feel to it that should make Americans uncomfortable — Republicans especially.  

Does the party of Lincoln want to be remembered as the author of a 21st century Missouri Compromise?  The GOP must now reject this ridiculous charade and immoral bargain, and return to a politics of inclusion.

“We ought to say thank you and welcome them,” former President George W. Bush said earlier this month, speaking of immigrants who come to America to do the jobs citizens don’t want. Bush, who ran as a compassionate, inclusive conservative, won more Latino votes in 2004 than any Republican before or since. Compare that with the infamous “sh-thole” comments of the current president.

And President Trump is not alone. Sounding the call to arms in Congress are his hawkish lieutenants, led by Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonEx-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Republicans raise concerns about Olympians using digital yuan during Beijing Games MORE (R) of Arkansas and David Perdue (R) of Georgia and Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingPence to visit Iowa to headline event for congressman Former Steve King challenger on rural voters in GOP states: 'They hate Democrats' First Democrat announces Senate bid against Iowa's Grassley MORE (R) of Iowa (interestingly, none hailing from border states.) They want to leverage the crisis over the fate of the Dreamers to enact the largest cuts in legal immigration in almost a century.

Immigration hardliners conveniently seem to ignore all that’s been accomplished to secure the border since the 9/11 attacks. Could we do more? Sure, but let’s remember what we’ve already done:

  • Established Homeland Security Department and stood up the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spending $13.5 billion  
  • Bush and Obama built nearly 700 miles of physical and virtual barriers following the passage of 2006 Secure Fence Act
  • Almost tripled the Border Patrol from 8,000+ to 24,000+ agents

Taken together, these measures have made America safer and brought illegal border crossings to an all time low, but Congress has stalemated. Breaking through on immigration reform will require addressing two issues desperately requiring a solution.

First, alleviate the costs to state and local governments, who are on the front lines managing the problem of 12 million undocumented as it actually exists — as it has been bequeathed to them by Congress’ inaction.

Effectively abandoned by the federal government, the states have developed various strategies — allowing undocumented people to attend school and in some cases get a drivers license. But these ways of coping have already been a great drain on state resources — education, healthcare and other infrastructure.

Governors, especially Republicans, need to step up and get involved in this discussion to demand that If Congress is in a generous mood, it should allocate that $25 billion to education and healthcare systems, to help states manage a looming crisis not of their making.  

Second, politicians need to champion a key 9/11 Commission recommendation yet to be implemented: A biometric exit system.  No mechanism exists to track and remove individuals who entered the U.S. legally and stayed. According to DHS, the numbers of those who crossed the southern border.  Shockingly not one dollar has been requested for a comprehensive to solution to the exit crisis.

Congress and the Republican party leadership need to reestablish the legislative branch as a coequal branch of government and find the courage to reach a deal with democrats that will make our forefathers proud, not make them cringe.  Our values, our morals, our very national identity is at stake.

James Norton, a former deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W Bush, is currently founder and president of Play-Action Strategies and an adjunct lecturer at Johns Hopkins University. Follow him on Twitter @jamesnorton99.