Trump is now sound­ing a lot like ‘weak’ Flake on DACA

The Arizona Republic - - AZ POLITICS -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly blasted Sen. Jeff Flake, one of his reg­u­lar Repub­li­can punch­ing bags, as “weak” on bor­der se­cu­rity.

But Trump, who ran for the White House in 2016 as an im­mi­gra­tion hawk, sounds in­creas­ingly like Flake, R-Ariz., who has a long his­tory of bi­par­ti­san work on com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

Trump and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said they came to a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment on a con­cept that would en­shrine Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram into law as part of a pack­age with bor­der-se­cu­rity mea­sures.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is phas­ing out in six months the pro­gram, which shields from de­por­ta­tion qual­i­fied young im­mi­grants who were brought into the United States il­le­gally as chil­dren. Trump has put the onus on Congress to do its “job” and pass pro­tec­tions for the so-called “dreamers.”

While Trump says he has not aban­doned his pri­or­ity of a U.S.-Mex­i­can bor­der wall, he sig­naled that wall fund­ing doesn’t need to be a com­po­nent of a DACA deal.

“It is in­ter­est­ing. He’s come around,” Flake told The Ari­zona Repub­li­con Thurs­day. “I’m where I’ve been. If he wants to join me on bor­der se­cu­rity and the Dream Act, that’s great.

“This is where se­ri­ous im­mi­gra­tion re­form is: It’s bor­der se­cu­rity, it’s some fix on DACA, it’s some mech­a­nism to deal with those who are here il­le­gally in the broader pop­u­la­tion, it’s in­te­rior en­force­ment, it’s a guest-worker plan,” Flake added.

Flake, a fresh­man sen­a­tor fac­ing po­ten­tially bru­tal pri­mary and gen­eral-elec­tion fights next year, ini­tially be­came the tar­get of Trump’s ire last year when he re­fused to en­dorse or vote for the GOP nominee and crit­i­cized him for his tone and poli­cies such as the bor­der wall.

Flake re­opened the old wounds with pub­li­ca­tion of his book, “Con­science of a Con­ser­va­tive: A Re­jec­tion of De­struc­tive Pol­i­tics and a Re­turn to Prin­ci­ple.” It has widely been char­ac­ter­ized as an anti-Trump book and prob­a­bly prompted an­other rhetor­i­cal beat­ing from Trump, who at an Aug. 22 rally in down­town Phoenix ripped Flake as “weak on bor­ders, weak on crime.”

But Flake’s book also ar­gues Repub­li­cans should reach out to Democrats to find com­mon ground where they can — just as Trump has been do­ing with his over­tures to Schumer and Pelosi. The Demo­cratic duo also re­cently made a deal with Trump on hur­ri­cane re­lief, the debt limit and gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

One of the ex­am­ples of bi­par­ti­san deal­mak­ing in Flake’s book is his ex­pe­ri­ence with the “Gang of Eight,” a group of four Repub­li­cans and four Democrats, in­clud­ing Schumer, who col­lab­o­rated on a com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion-re­form bill that passed the Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate in 2013.

As passed by the Se­nate, the bill would have made an un­prece­dented $46.3 bil­lion in­vest­ment in bor­der se­cu­rity, as well as pro­vided a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for mil­lions of peo­ple with­out le­gal sta­tus who had set­tled in the coun­try and a mod­ern­ized visa sys­tem. The GOP-con­trolled House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives had no in­ter­est in pass­ing it, though, and it did not be­come law.

Flake said he would be pleased with leg­is­la­tion com­bin­ing DACA or the Dream Act with bor­der-se­cu­rity up­grades, par­tic­u­larly if it’s “not just one sin­gu­lar, brick-and-mor­tar, con­tigu­ous wall,” which he con­sid­ers the wrong ap­proach.

“We’ll take it any way,” Flake said. “With im­mi­gra­tion re­form, I’ve al­ways said we’ll take it com­pre­hen­sive, we’ll take it piece­meal, we’ll take it any way we can get it. That goes for DACA.”

Trump lit­er­ally launched his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2015 with a prom­ise to “im­me­di­ately ter­mi­nate” DACA, re­fer­ring to it as Obama’s “il­le­gal ex­ec­u­tive or­der on im­mi­gra­tion.” But since tak­ing of­fice, he has been more sym­pa­thetic to­ward the dreamers it shields from de­por­ta­tion.

Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, the White House press sec­re­tary, on Fri­day said the pres­i­dent “sup­ports the DACA pro­gram” and “mak­ing a deal on that,” so long as it in­cludes “mas­sive bor­der se­cu­rity” and in­te­rior en­force­ment.

“He’s still 100 per­cent com­mit­ted to the wall,” she told the White House press corps. “And we’re go­ing to be lay­ing out what our spe­cific pri­or­i­ties and prin­ci­ples are in that front over the next seven to 10 days, and we’ll make sure that you guys are all part of that.”

San­ders also did not di­rectly an­swer a ques­tion about whether a DACA deal might fall un­der the White House’s def­i­ni­tion of “amnesty” for im­mi­grants with­out le­gal sta­tus.

Ear­lier in the week, Trump in­sisted “we’re not talk­ing about amnesty” with re­gard to a DACA com­pro­mise, sug­gest­ing that DACA re­cip­i­ents might be al­lowed to stay in the coun­try but with­out a path to cit­i­zen­ship. He also hinted that he might re­quire some sort of com­mit­ment from Democrats not to ob­struct wall fund­ing at a later date.

“We’re not look­ing at cit­i­zen­ship. We’re not look­ing at amnesty. We’re look­ing at al­low­ing peo­ple to stay here,” Trump said. “... We’re talk­ing about tak­ing care of peo­ple, peo­ple who were brought here, peo­ple who have done a good job and were not brought here of their own vo­li­tion.”

Flake said he didn’t con­sider a no-cit­i­zen­ship plan to be “ideal,” but said he would be will­ing to go along with it if that was the only com­pro­mise that could pass.

He pre­dicted many in the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity would go along with it, too.

“They’d take it as long there was a guar­an­tee that they wouldn’t be de­ported sim­ply for hav­ing crossed the bor­der il­le­gally and that they could have a le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dency with­out a prospect for ad­just­ing their sta­tus,” Flake said. “I could go for that.”

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