Trump’s grand immigration bargain, Take One

The Hill reports that the White House will endorse allowing as many as 1.8 million young immigrants to seek U.S. citizenship in an immigration plan that will be released next week. In exchange, for the “Dreamer” protections, President Trump will seek billions of dollars for a border wall and sweeping changes to the immigration system.

The sweeping changes would include limiting chain migration such that U.S. citizens and permanent residents could only sponsor their immediate families, which includes spouses and minor children. Other relatives, like parents and siblings, would be excluded. In addition, the visa lottery system would be scrapped.

And there’s more, including appropriating additional funds to hire new DHS personnel, ICE attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals; ending statutorily-imposed catch-and-release and and closing various legal loopholes; and taking measures to ensure the detention and removal of criminal aliens, gang members, violent offenders, and aggravated felons and the prompt removal of illegal border-crossers regardless of country of origin.

This deal is similar to the one reader Tom Lopez described in one of my posts. However, I expected Trump to offer a path to citizenship only to the DACA population — around 700,000 — not the Dreamers — another 1.3 million or so. This is a bolder deal.

Is it a good deal? I’m skeptical.

Mark Krikorian raises several objections that seem well taken. First:

[G]oing beyond DACA beneficiaries to those who could have applied but didn’t is. . .not just a difference in degree, but in kind. A whole new process will have to be set up for the 1 million additional people who would be expected to apply.

The other work of USCIS would grind to a halt, delaying other legal immigration applications, as happened when DACA was originally implemented (and remember that Obama’s DACA amnesty was smaller than what Trump is proposing). In addition, there would be an opportunity cost, with USCIS unable to pursue many urgently needed administrative reforms.


[E]xpanding the amnesty beyond DACA beneficiaries is morally dubious. The reason they have a compelling case for amnesty before all enforcement measures and in place and legal immigration curbed is that not only did they arrive here as minors but they voluntarily came forward and provided their information to the government. Those who chose not to do so should not be granted the same extraordinary act of mercy.

Moreover, the provisions on chain migration and the visa lottery apparently aren’t as good as they sound:

The outline says that no new applications for the visa lottery and the chain-migration categories would be accepted, limiting family immigration to spouses and minor children. Great! But it also provides for the continuation of those categories (and reallocation of the lottery visas) until the admission of all 4 million people on the current chain-migration waiting lists.

This, says Kriorian, could take 17 years.

By contrast, the Cotton and Goodlatte bills both grandfather people on the waiting list who were within one year of getting their green card applications adjudicated, and refund the application fees for everyone else. This is clearly the better way to go.

I’m surprised Trump included amnesty and a path to citizenship for 2 million illegal immigrants in his opening bid. The Democrats now have the opportunity to accept the broad amnesty and try to chip away at the reform/enforcement provisions.

Even if Trump is willing to accept such a sweeping amnesty, wouldn’t it have been better to start with the DACA population and, when the Dems called inclusion of all Dreamers, demand more concessions on the reform/enforcement side? By offering relief upfront to such a huge class, Trump may succeed in putting Schumer under maximum pressure, but I still wonder about the wisdom of opening with such a generous offer.

Krikorian calls his article on the deal “The Art of the Choke.” That’s strong, but I understand his dismay.


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