President Donald J. Trump extended an olive branch to Democrats on the weekend, conceding much of their immigration policy agenda in a bold longshot bid to move forward with building a southern border wall and ending the nearly month-long partial government shutdown but left-wing lawmakers rejected his overture even before he addressed the nation on TV on Saturday.
Trump’s address came after a particularly frosty week in Washington.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) informed the president he would be unable to deliver a State of the Union Address in Congress because the money wasn’t there to provide security. Trump countered by canceling a decadent junket Pelosi and other fat cat lawmakers had been planning overseas. At the eleventh-hour, while lawmakers and their guests were en route to a military airport to fly away, the president deprived them of the use of U.S. military aircraft.
Anticipating Democrat criticism, Trump said on TV, “walls are not immoral,” adding that a wall “will save many lives and stop drugs from pouring into our country.”
“This is not a concrete structure from sea to sea,” he said. “These are steel barriers in high-priority locations.”
During his speech the president focused on the perils presented by an open border, saying it provided a “very wide and open gateway for criminals and gang members to enter the United States.”
But if Congress were to accept his proposals, more immigration reforms could follow, Trump suggested.
“If we are successful in this effort, we will have the best chance in a long time at real, bipartisan immigration reform, and it won’t stop here, it will keep going until we do it all.”
Although Democrat lawmakers have previously voted to build a wall on the nation’s porous multistate border with Mexico, they hate Trump with unbridled animosity and refuse to give him any kind of political victory, especially when it comes to immigration. Democrats benefit from a regular flow of illegal aliens into the country and view the lawbreaking foreigners as an important political constituency to be courted and cultivated.
Their arguments against building the wall have become increasingly irrational and bizarre in recent days. It is now common to hear overwrought left-wingers describe the proposed wall, which would keep illegal aliens out of the country, as “racist” and “white-nationalist.”
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted 217 to 185 on Dec. 20 for a spending bill with $5.7 billion for the wall. The measure floundered in the Senate and the partial shutdown got underway Dec. 22. The Senate remains in Republican hands but the House is now controlled by Democrats.
The president’s negotiations with Democrats over the approximately $5 billion needed to begin construction of the border wall have gone nowhere –Democrats childishly refuse to show up for meetings with Trump at the White House— and the federal government continues to be partially shut down for lack of appropriated funds. Although pressure on Trump has been growing, the president has vowed to keep the shutdown going as long as it takes to secure funding for the wall.
But on the weekend Trump backed away somewhat from his hardline no-wall-in-exchange-for-amnesty stance and agreed to policies some of his conservative critics like author Ann Coulter and political base view as betrayals.
Trump said in exchange for $5.7 billion in wall construction funds he would back a three-year extension of protections for 700,000 individuals who came to the U.S. unlawfully as children and were shielded from removal under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under any conventional reading of the U.S. Constitution DACA is plainly unconstitutional –it was created by Obama’s presidential fiat— but courts have ordered the Trump administration to keep it in operation.
As part of the package, Trump would also support extending the protection period for 300,000 recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. TPS prevents the deportation of individuals in the U.S. from designated countries deemed unsafe to return to.
Under the deal, another $800 million would be allocated for drug detection technology to secure ports of entry, according to a Fox News summary. Moreover, 2,750 new border agents and law enforcement professionals would be hired, along with 75 new immigration judges to cut through a large backlog of asylum requests.
Trump’s proposals, which could be included in legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate this week, were praised by prominent Republicans.
Trump’s plan for DACA recipients and individuals covered under the TPS program are similar to what has previously been proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Graham hailed the plan as “fantastic” on Twitter Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lauded Trump for what he termed a “bold solution” to re-open the partially shuttered U.S. government.
“Compromise in divided government means that everyone can’t get everything they want every time,” McConnell said. “The President’s proposal reflects that. It strikes a fair compromise by incorporating priorities from both sides of the aisle.”
Trump nemesis Mitt Romney, now the newly sworn-in junior GOP senator from Utah, praised the proposal.
“@POTUS has put forth a reasonable, good faith proposal that will reopen the government and help secure the border[,]” Romney wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to voting for it and will work to encourage my Republican and Democratic colleagues to do the same.”
Conservative talk radio host and Landmark Legal Foundation founder Mark R. Levin was enthusiastic about Trump’s new plan.
“I strongly support President Trump’s immigration proposal today[,]” he wrote on Twitter on the weekend. “[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi & [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer rejected it even before the president spoke to the nation & made his proposal. They’re radical know-nothings.”
Pelosi rejected the Trump plan before the president took to the airwaves.
The package is a “compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good-faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.”
“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter,” she said. “For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports.”
Schumer accused Trump of continuing to put “forward one-sided and ineffective remedies.” He said Trump should re-open the government first and worry about his political agenda later.
“It was the president who singlehandedly took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place," Schumer said. “Offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise, but more hostage taking.”
Democrats are fine with allowing the border crisis to fester. Instead of offering the $5.7 billion Trump says he needs, they have offered a measly $1.3 billion for border security in general.
The stalemate over border wall funding continues and the federal government continues to be partially closed.