How amnesty overreach killed relief for “Dreamers”

On the evening of February 14, I wrote a post called “Senate May Be Perilously Close to Passing Liberal Amnesty Legislation.” The legislation in question was sponsored by the so-called Common Sense Coalition, consisting of eight Republican Senators (Alexander, Collins, Gardner, Graham, Flake, Isakson, Murkowski, and Rounds), seven Democrats, and one Independent.

It granted amnesty for nearly two millions “Dreamers” and funded a wall. It did nothing about the diversity lottery and nothing meaningful about chain migrations.

The legislation also told the Executive Branch how it should prioritize immigration enforcement. For illegal immigrants guilty only of “unlawful presence,” immigration officers were to focus on those who arrived after June 30, 2018. Thus, this legislation invited aliens to enter the U.S. illegally for the next four months by effectively assuring them they wouldn’t be removed.

Today’s Washington Post reports on the vigorous efforts of the Trump administration, and especially the Department of Homeland Security, to kill this bill. David Nakamura and Mike DeBonis report that at 10:30 p.m. on February 14 (around the time my post went up), a senior administration official told a reporter, “We’re going to bury it.”

They did. A White House threat to veto the legislation, coupled with warnings of dire consequences from the Department of Homeland Security, scared off Republican support from other than the eight sponsors.

Nakamura and DeBonis devote most of their story to portraying this “assault” as a betrayal of the Dreamers by President Trump. It was the White House, they sniff, “that emerged as a key obstacle preventing a deal to help the dreamers.” They conclude: “The episode reflected President Trump’s inability — or lack of desire — to cut a deal with his adversaries even when doing so could have yielded a signature domestic policy achievement. . .”

Only near the end of their lengthy story do Nakamura and DeBonis mention the overreach by the “Common Sense Coalition” that produced the administration’s fierce opposition. They write:

[A]s the “war room” of administration lawyers and policy experts examined the 64-page text on Wednesday, it was a handwritten note on the final page that set off the loudest alarm bells. That section dealt with setting in law DHS’s priorities for enforcement. Under the proposal, the agency would focus its powers on immigrants with felonies or multiple misdemeanors, who were national security threats and who had arrived in the country after a certain date.

Scribbled in the margins was a date: June 30, 2018 [Note: an end of January date in the typed text was crossed out].

The administration team was dumbstruck: In addition to making it harder for DHS to deport all of those already here illegally, lawmakers were opening the door to a surge of new unauthorized immigrants by setting an effective “amnesty” date four months in the future.

“No one who has worked on immigration issues in the administration or on the Hill was aware of any legislation that had ever been proposed and scheduled to receive a vote on the floor of the Senate that created an amnesty program effectively for those who arrive in the future,” said a DHS official who helped lead the review. “That would clearly and unequivocally encourage a massive wave of illegal immigration and visa overstays.”

(Emphasis added)

Of course it would. No wonder DHS, which would have had to cope with the massive wave, came out so forcefully against the bill.

Where was the “common sense” in inviting a rush to illegal entry? And why did Sens. Alexander, Collins, Gardner, Graham, Flake, Isakson, Murkowski, and Rounds sign on to such a proposal.

Perhaps some wanted to maximize the amnesty, while others were too lazy to read to the end of bill or too clueless to grasp the consequences of what they read.

From the Democrats’ perspective, was the prospective amnesty something they thought they could sneak through or was it a poison pill? Some have speculated that Democrats don’t want any deal that includes a wall and would like (or be okay with) a political landscape in which the Dreamers are still in limbo.

Perhaps Democrats saw inclusion of the handwritten note as a win-win. Either they get all those new illegal immigrants ensconced here or they blame the administration for doing nothing for Dreamers.

Today’s Post story looks like implementation of the second option.

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