‘Dream kids’ for Per­due im­mi­gra­tion bill?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - Jim Gal­loway Po­lit­i­cal Insider

Hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free may be about to take it in the neck.

That could be the price for sav­ing nearly 800,000 “dream kids” from the threat of de­por­ta­tion. If you’re David Per­due, that’s a fair trade.

Heads, most of them Repub­li­can, are still spin­ning from Wed­nes­day’s White House meet­ing be­tween Don­ald Trump and Demo­cratic lead­ers in Congress, a meet­ing in which the pres­i­dent ap­peared to pledge his sup­port for leg­is­la­tion to sal­vage the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram es­tab­lished by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

At least that was the line from Democrats — that the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram es­tab­lished by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had been sal­vaged.

“We agreed to en­shrine the pro­tec­tions of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a pack­age of bor­der se­cu­rity, ex­clud­ing the wall, that’s ac­cept­able to both sides,” the mi­nor­ity lead­ers of the House and Se­nate — Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, re­spec­tively — in a joint state­ment after a rather strange meal. Choco­late pie after Chi­nese? The re­ac­tion from the anti-im­mi­gra­tion wing of the GOP was wither­ing. “Amnesty Don,” shouted Bre­it­bart.com. “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump im­peached?” Tweeted the de­mand­ing Ann Coul­ter. “@ POTUS needs to keep his prom­ises,” warned Sean Han­nity, the an­chor of the Fox News “opin­ion show.”

Trump ap­peared to back­track the next morn­ing. “No deal was made last night on DACA,” he said on Twit­ter. The wall “will con­tinue to be built,” he as­sured the faith­ful.

And then the pres­i­dent whiplashed fer­vent Trump­ists with this: “Does any­body re­ally want to throw out good, ed­u­cated and ac­com­plished young peo­ple who have jobs, some serv­ing in the mil­i­tary?”

In fact, there might have been some mis­di­rec­tion. But there was no back-track­ing.

Here’s some­thing you may not have known: A few hours be­fore Chuck and Nancy sat down with Don­ald, their new BFF, David Per­due, R-Ga., and Tom Cot­ton, R-Arkansas, on Wed­nes­day con­ducted a mini-sem­i­nar for the rest of the Se­nate Repub­li­can cau­cus.

It was a re­fresher course on the de­tails of the pair’s bill to en­act a pro­found change in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that would put a greater em­pha­sis on the job skills and ed­u­ca­tion lev­els of for­eign­ers over fam­ily ties. Le­gal im­mi­gra­tion would be cut by half in just a few years. A hard cap would be put on refugees.

Only a few hours later, as he ex­ited the Choco­late Pie Sum­mit, U.S. Rep. Henry Cueller, D-Texas, said Trump had coun­tered dur­ing the bar­gain­ing ses­sion not with a wall, but with el­e­ments of the Per­due/Cot­ton bill.

An­other sign that we may be headed for a shot­gun mar­riage of DACA with the Per­due/Cot­ton RAISE Act came with a Fri­day morn­ing Tweet from the pres­i­dent: “CHAIN MI­GRA­TION can­not be al­lowed to be part of any leg­is­la­tion on Im­mi­gra­tion!”

Tightly re­strict­ing the abil­ity of new Amer­i­can cit­i­zens to bring in fam­ily mem­bers is at the heart of the Per­due/Cot­ton bill. Which Trump en­dorsed last month.

The DACA con­ces­sion isn’t a gift to Democrats. It is the first part of the trans­ac­tion. Let us take Schumer and Pelosi at their words and ac­cept that Trump’s “big beau­ti­ful wall” will not be part of the deal.

This makes good po­lit­i­cal sense. At its core, the wall is a bud­get is­sue. Which makes it a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal from what a DACA fix would be­come.

What other im­mi­gra­tion-re­lated is­sues are out there? The de­por­ta­tion of 11 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants said to live here is some­thing ev­ery Demo­crat – and most Repub­li­cans – op­pose. And sac­ri­fic­ing mil­lions for 800,000 makes no sense, math­e­mat­i­cally or morally.

An end to birth-right cit­i­zen­ship? That’s a con­sti­tu­tional is­sue and so, again, a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal.

The only bar­gain­ing chip left on the ta­ble is the Per­due/Cot­ton bill. Its “like-for-like” na­ture makes it at­trac­tive. “Dream kids” – who are young adults now – could be given le­gal sta­tus in this coun­try. But at the same time, Repub­li­cans could put re­stric­tions on their abil­ity to serve as a touch­stone for rel­a­tives.

The Per­due/Cot­ton bill has many crit­ics, even among con­ser­va­tives. The Cato In­sti­tute dis­putes the se­na­tors’ con­tention that Amer­i­can wages can be raised by lim­it­ing the en­try of un­skilled la­bor.

Al­ready, the U.S. has be­come a low-birth rate coun­try, an un­healthy sit­u­a­tion for a grow­ing econ­omy. Be­tween 1990 and 2015, the only thing that kept a 4 per­cent drop in births in the U.S. from be­com­ing a 10 per­cent drop was an in­crease in chil­dren born to im­mi­grant moth­ers, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter re­port made pub­lic last month.

The point is that nearly ev­ery as­pect of the Per­due/Cot­ton bill is amenable to ne­go­ti­a­tion, so long as Trump can re­tain the loy­alty of his base of sup­port­ers.

An­other as­pect that could make this deal po­lit­i­cally pos­si­ble: If the La­bor Party in Bri­tain is any ex­am­ple, Democrats might be will­ing to ac­cept some new re­stric­tions on im­mi­gra­tion in or­der to win back lost white vot­ers.

In the snap elec­tion called by Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May this spring, in­tended to bol­ster Con­ser­va­tives dur­ing the com­ing Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, La­bor en­joyed a sur­pris­ing surge — in part by con­ced­ing an end to the right of free move­ment be­tween Bri­tish cit­i­zens and those re­main­ing in the Euro­pean Union.

At the same time, La­bor promised to guar­an­tee the rights of Euro­pean Union cit­i­zens al­ready liv­ing in Bri­tain. The DACA par­al­lel is there.

Whether true or not, many white blue-col­lar work­ers – a con­stituency lost by Democrats in the U.S. – be­lieve that their stag­nant po­si­tion in so­ci­ety can be linked to the de­mo­graphic changes now oc­cur­ring in the U.S.

Richard Ray is pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of the Georgia State AFL-CIO, but he is still a mem­ber of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. After the Trump-Pelosi-Schumer din­ner on Wed­nes­day, I rang up Ray to ask whether his AFL-CIO friends might ac­cept re­stric­tions on im­mi­gra­tion as part of a DACA deal.

Mem­bers of pub­lic em­ployee and man­u­fac­tur­ing unions might be luke­warm to the idea, he said. But build­ing trade unions – roofers, brick­lay­ers and the like — would be on board.

“The ar­gu­ment has to be, in ex­change for DACA, let’s not let so many in. That would be a trade­off,” Ray said.

Sen. David Per­due seeks a pro­found change in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that would put a greater em­pha­sis on the job skills and ed­u­ca­tion lev­els of for­eign­ers over fam­ily ties.

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