President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday evening that he expected Congress to “legalize” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that he had just rescinded Tuesday morning, or he would “revisit” the issue.
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
Earlier in the day, shortly before he made the official announcement that DACA would end after a six-month delay, President Trump tweeted that Congress should “get ready to do [its] job,” leaving the outcome of that process ambiguous.
As things stood then, if Congress failed to pass legislation to protect the so-called “Dreamers” — illegal aliens who were brought to the U.S. as children — then DACA would simply end, and its beneficiaries would be potentially subject to deportation.
That gave Trump maximum leverage to demand concessions — border wall funding, for example — in exchange for any legalization that Congress would offer, and to limit the extent of that legalization.
Trump was aided, ironically, by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), who saidof Trump’s decision on DACA: “We are now in a countdown toward deportation.”
That was almost certainly hyperbole — the Trump administration does not want to deport the “Dreamers,” at least not most of them — but in creating alarm for the sake of the 24-hour news cycle, Durbin foolishly gave Trump the upper hand in the negotiations to follow.
And then, somehow, Trump gave it back.
By tweeting that he expects Congress to legalize DACA, he risks alienating those of his supporters who want him to end the program.
Trump’s base might be willing to accept a compromise on DACA at the end of six months, but not at the start.
Furthermore, Trump may have backed himself into signing whatever form of DACA Congress passes, even if it is more generous than the original DACA policy.
Trump can still extricate himself from his blunder by setting out clear conditions under which he would veto a DACA bill.
- First, Congress would have to fund the border wall — and potentially tax remittances by foreign workers so that Mexico pays for it.
- Second, there can be no offer of legal permanent residency to DACA recipients until the border is fully secure.
- Third, there could be no “path to citizenship,” pending broader immigration reform.
Without clear limits to what the president will accept, Congress’s debate over DACA will slouch towards amnesty — prodded by media hysteria, Democrats’ lust for votes, and GOP fear of the donor class. That is doubly true if Trump is seen to be cheering for a DACA-like outcome.
Whatever caused Tuesday evening’s DACA tweet — perhaps a loss of nerve in a Bannon-less West Wing — it was an error from which Trump must extricate himself, and soon.