‘Dream­ers’ deal gets mo­men­tum

Some Repub­li­cans show in­cip­i­ent signs of sup­port for Trump’s de­ci­sion

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Mas­caro, Brian Ben­nett and David Lauter

WASH­ING­TON — A nearly two-decade stale­mate over the legal status of hun­dreds of thou­sands of young im­mi­grants moved closer to res­o­lu­tion Thurs­day as a president ea­ger for tan­gi­ble vic­to­ries proved will­ing to get one by aban­don­ing a po­si­tion dear to many of his sup­port­ers.

The ten­ta­tive agree­ment, worked out over din­ner Wed­nes­day night be­tween President Trump and the top two Democrats in Con­gress, could give legal status to nearly 800,000 so-called Dream­ers, peo­ple who came to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren.

The move came slightly more than a week af­ter Trump an­nounced that he would end an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­gram known as DACA that pro­vided Dream­ers a shield against de­por­ta­tion and per­mis­sion to work legally in the United States. The agree­ment would, in ef­fect, en­shrine the DACA pro­tec­tions in law in re­turn for in­creased spend­ing on bor­der se­cu­rity.

Trump’s de­ci­sion to end DACA, for­mally known as the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, had been a Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi about a deal with President Don­ald Trump to pro­tect the “Dream­ers.” ma­jor vic­tory for im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tion­ists, both within his ad­min­is­tra­tion and out­side it. But Trump, who has re­peat­edly shown a per­sonal soft spot for the Dream­ers, never seemed truly in sync with a will­ing­ness to see the young im­mi­grants forced out of the coun­try, de­spite his own

call for their de­por­ta­tion dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The president’s de­ci­sion to ne­go­ti­ate a deal with House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Fran­cisco and Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York in­fu­ri­ated many of his sup­port­ers, lead­ing to cries of be­trayal. Trump, how­ever, seemed un­de­terred. “Peo­ple want to see that hap­pen,” he told re­porters Thurs­day morn­ing, re­fer­ring to the deal as he pre­pared to head to Florida to look at hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery ef­forts.

“You have 800,000 young peo­ple, brought here, no fault of their own. So we’re work­ing on a plan, we’ll see how it works out. We’re go­ing to get mas­sive bor­der se­cu­rity as part of that. And I think some­thing can hap­pen, we’ll see what hap­pens, but some­thing will hap­pen,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to Trump’s per­sonal feelings about the Dream­ers, Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress at­trib­uted his sud­den out­reach to the Democrats to un­hap­pi­ness over his fail­ure to achieve big leg­isla­tive goals in the first eight months of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“He’s very frus­trated in how things are not get­ting done, and he’s talking with the Democrats. What’s he sup­posed to do?” asked Rep. Lou Bar­letta, R-Pa., one of Trump’s ear­li­est sup­port­ers in Con­gress and a long­time foe of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. “He didn’t come here to do noth­ing. He came here to keep his prom­ises.”

Leg­is­la­tion to re­solve the is­sue, known as the Dream Act and cham­pi­oned by Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Lu­cille Roy­bal-Al­lard, D-Calif., has been un­der de­bate since early in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Long­time ad­vo­cates cau­tioned that the treach­er­ous pol­i­tics of im­mi­gra­tion could still upset the ten­ta­tive deal. At least for now, how­ever, Trump’s will­ing­ness to back a le­gal­iza­tion mea­sure ap­peared to have bro­ken the log­jam in Con­gress, with even long­time sup­port­ers of im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tion say­ing they now viewed the young im­mi­grants as a spe­cial case, jus­ti­fy­ing a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.

“You’ll find the ma­jor­ity of the Repub­li­cans on the floor agree that we’ve got to ad­dress the Dream­ers,” said Rep. Mike Simp­son, R-Idaho. “These chil­dren did not break the law. If I go into a bank and rob a bank, and have my 6-year-old kid with me, they don’t pros­e­cute the 6-year-old.”

White House of­fi­cials, sid­ing with Pelosi, said they wanted to see leg­is­la­tion pass be­fore Con­gress takes a sched­uled re­cess in early Oc­to­ber, per­haps fore­stalling the abil­ity of the re­stric­tion­ist side of the de­bate to rally op­po­si­tion.

The ve­he­mence of that op­po­si­tion was ev­i­dent Thurs­day. “Amnesty Don ... Trump Caves on DACA,” screamed a head­line on Bre­it­bart News, the con­ser­va­tive web­site run by Stephen K. Ban­non, Trump’s for­mer chief strate­gist.

Sean Han­nity, the Fox News com­men­ta­tor and one of Trump’s most loyal sup­port­ers, likened the president’s will­ing­ness to give legal status, and per­haps cit­i­zen­ship, to the Dream­ers to President Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s break­ing of his “no new taxes” pledge — a de­ci­sion that led to a con­ser­va­tive re­volt that doomed Bush’s pres­i­dency.

But polling has re­peat­edly shown that large ma­jori­ties of Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing a ma­jor­ity of Trump vot­ers, have sym­pa­thy for the Dream­ers and sup­port legal status.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, one of the lead­ing im­mi­gra­tion hawks in Con­gress, said that while he would op­pose the new Dream Act, as he had four years ago when it last came up for de­bate, a deal would be “harder to re­sist” now. “In 2013, at least we had a president to op­pose. It’s harder to re­sist a president of your own party,” he said.

“It could be a kind of Nixon-China mo­ment,” said Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., the chair­man of the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee. “That’s the type of deal you do want to reach.” President Richard Nixon, a long­time anti-com­mu­nist, nor­mal­ized re­la­tions with the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment in China in 1972.

Through­out the day Thurs­day, Trump sought to de­fend him­self against charges that he was break­ing a prom­ise. Re­spond­ing to a shouted ques­tion as he left the White House about whether he fa­vors “amnesty,” Trump shouted back: “The word is DACA.”

Later, as he ar­rived in Florida, Trump am­pli­fied that de­fense. “We’re not look­ing at cit­i­zen­ship. We’re not look­ing at amnesty. We’re look­ing at al­low­ing peo­ple to stay here,” he said. “We’re talking about tak­ing care of peo­ple, peo­ple who were brought here, peo­ple who’ve done a good job.”

Trump also talked about the im­por­tance of his long-sought wall along the U.S. bor­der with Mex­ico, but no­tably did not say that money for it would have to be part of a DACA deal, which Democrats have in­sisted they would not agree to.

“Very im­por­tant is the wall. We have to be sure the wall isn’t ob­structed,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be here [in the DACA deal], but they can’t ob­struct the wall if it’s in a bud­get or any­thing else. We’ll only do it if we get ex­treme se­cu­rity, not only surveillance but ev­ery­thing that goes with surveillance,” he said.

Trump said he had briefed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., on his dis­cus­sions with the Demo­cratic lead­ers, call­ing them both early Thurs­day. They were “on board,” he said.

McCon­nell’s of­fice re­leased a state­ment Thurs­day morn­ing that of­fered luke­warm sup­port. “As Con­gress de­bates the best ways to ad­dress il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion through strong bor­der se­cu­rity and in­te­rior en­force­ment, DACA should be part of those dis­cus­sions. We look for­ward to re­ceiv­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s leg­isla­tive pro­posal as we con­tinue our work on these is­sues,” the state­ment said.

Ryan in­sisted talks were just be­gin­ning. “There’s no agree­ment,” he said. “These were dis­cus­sions.”

In a state­ment Thurs­day morn­ing, Pelosi and Schumer said that “there was no fi­nal deal, but there was agree­ment on the fol­low­ing: We agreed that the president would sup­port en­shrin­ing DACA pro­tec­tions into law, and en­cour­age the House and Se­nate to act. What re­mains to be ne­go­ti­ated are the de­tails of bor­der se­cu­rity,” they said, adding that the deal would not in­clude money for the bor­der wall. “The president made clear he in­tends to pur­sue [wall fund­ing] at a later time, and we made clear we would con­tinue to op­pose it.”

Demo­cratic con­gres­sional staff mem­bers were on the look­out for pos­si­ble deal­break­ers. Among the mea­sures Democrats would prob­a­bly re­sist would be ef­forts to re­quire all em­ploy­ers to check fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion data­bases be­fore mak­ing new hires — crit­ics say the data­bases aren’t re­li­able — or to limit Dream­ers’ fu­ture abil­ity to spon­sor rel­a­tives for im­mi­gra­tion status.

AARON P. BERN­STEIN/GETTY IMAGES

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