Trump’s newest part­ners risk lit­tle

DREAM ACT IS GOAL OF SCHUMER, PELOSI If no deal emerges, they are no worse off


Demo­cratic law­mak­ers shut out of gov­er­nance for much of this year now find them­selves at the cen­ter of high-stakes ne­go­ti­a­tions with Pres­i­dent Trump that could achieve a prize they have sought for nearly a decade: per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus for hun­dreds of thou­sands of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

For a small but vo­cal con­tin­gent of Democrats, these talks are fraught with peril, largely be­cause of their to­tal dis­trust of a man who be­gan his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign two years ago de­scrib­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Mex­ico as rapists.

But for Senate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), there is lit­tle to lose. If the deal falls apart and Trump re­turns to his pat­tern of in­sult-hurl­ing and name-call­ing, the Demo­cratic lead­ers will be right where they be­gan — no bet­ter and no worse. And a suc­cess­ful ne­go­ti­a­tion would achieve some­thing they failed to pull off when their party con­trolled both Congress and the White House. It could also serve as a road map for more achieve­ments to come.

“Noth­ing ven­tured, noth­ing gained,” Schumer said in an in­ter­view. “We thought we had an op­por­tu­nity to get some­thing good done, and let’s see what hap­pens. We’re very hope­ful that they will keep their word.”

Schumer and Pelosi are press­ing ahead with the pres­i­dent’s top ad­vis­ers, hop­ing to reach a deal in a mat­ter of weeks to en­shrine in law an Obama-era ex­ec­u­tive or­der called De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals. It pro­tects from de­por­ta­tion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants brought to the United

States as chil­dren. Trump has crit­i­cized DACA as ex­ec­u­tive over­reach, but he has also ex­pressed em­pa­thy for the young im­mi­grants it pro­tects.

There is one crit­i­cal stum­bling block to the whole ef­fort to pass a Dream Act to re­place DACA: how much ad­di­tional bor­der se­cu­rity and en­force­ment Trump will de­mand.

The deep fear among Democrats skep­ti­cal of the ne­go­ti­a­tions is that, in ex­change for per­ma­nent pro­tec­tions for “dream­ers,” Trump will win broad new pow­ers and re­sources to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws that go be­yond adding more agents or technology along the bor­der. The cost of a per­ma­nent Dream Act, they say, could be a new and em­bold­ened de­por­ta­tion force across the na­tion that un­der­mines civil lib­er­ties and ter­ror­izes law-abid­ing im­mi­grants.

“We’re go­ing to have to be very leery and very care­ful of the slip­pery slope,” said Rep. Luis V. Gu­tiér­rez (D-Ill.).

“There is no fresh start with Trump, and I don’t trust him,” said Rep. Raúl M. Gri­jalva (D-Ariz.).

Washington heads are still spin­ning from a ne­go­ti­at­ing dy­namic that no one ex­pected — not Schumer and Pelosi, and not their Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.).

Trump spent his first seven months in an en­tirely par­ti­san bub­ble, work­ing only with Repub­li­cans try­ing, and fail­ing, to pass con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tion — no­tably a re­place­ment to the Af­ford­able Care Act. And it was less than a month ago when Pelosi said Trump should be for­mally cen­sured by Congress for how he re­sponded to the vi­o­lence sur­round­ing the white su­prem­a­cist gath­er­ing in Char­lottesville.

But Trump’s frus­tra­tion with GOP lead­ers reached a boil­ing point dur­ing the failed ef­fort to re­peal Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health-care law, los­ing in the Senate by one vote when three Repub­li­cans op­posed Trump. From the White House’s per­spec­tive, that frus­tra­tion — and Trump’s pivot to work­ing with Democrats — is jus­ti­fied.

“Repub­li­cans have shown they can’t keep 50 out of 52 mem­bers in line, even af­ter six years of prom­ise to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare when given the op­por­tu­nity,” said Marc Short, Trump’s di­rec­tor of leg­isla­tive af­fairs.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, for their part, worry that Pelosi and Schumer could out­smart Trump. The two are sea­soned deal­mak­ers with com­bined ser­vice of more than 65 years on Capi­tol Hill, while Trump is a new­comer who honed his ne­go­ti­at­ing skills in real es­tate. Repub­li­cans have noted in par­tic­u­lar how Trump and Schumer — one raised in Queens, the other in Brook­lyn — are bond­ing over their outer-bor­ough roots, leav­ing the pres­i­dent, they fear, vul­ner­a­ble to get­ting the short end of the deal.

Trump’s clos­est ad­vis­ers are en­joy­ing the theater of how quickly al­le­giances are ebbing and flow­ing from week to week. “Washington will never keep pace with Trump speed,” Kellyanne Con­way, coun­selor to the pres­i­dent, said in an in­ter­view. “A non-politi­cian’s mea­sure of progress is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent than that of Washington. It’s grounded in busi­ness, it’s grounded in re­sults, it’s grounded in per­for­mance.”

One se­nior White House of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity to com­ment on in­ter- nal dis­cus­sions, said Trump sees Schumer as an ex­cit­ing and en­er­getic con­trast to McCon­nell, whose de­fault pos­ture is in­tense si­lence. Trump sees McCon­nell’s deep knowl­edge of pulling levers of pow­ers as a per­fectly fine skill but one that is at odds with Trump’s stated goal of dis­rupt­ing the tra­di­tional, es­tab­lish­ment­driven ways of Washington.

The ma­jor­ity of rank-and-file Democrats, as well as lib­eral ac­tivists around the na­tion, are will­ing to give Schumer and Pelosi room to ma­neu­ver. Pro­gres­sive or­ga­niz­ers, who had scorched Democrats for vot­ing to con­firm Trump’s Cab­i­net nom­i­nees, have gen­er­ally held their fire so far on the bi­par­ti­san DACA talks eight months af­ter some of them had sur­rounded Schumer’s Brook­lyn home chant­ing, “Chuck’s a chicken.”

“They’re in this po­si­tion be­cause there’s been a whole na­tional move­ment, years in the mak­ing, on be­half of the dream­ers,” said Héc­tor Figueroa, a New York la­bor or­ga­nizer who is co-chair­man of the pro­gres­sive Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party.

For now, Schumer and Pelosi have taken a page from Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s old “trust but ver­ify” adage to­ward the Sovi­ets. They say that they have con­vinced Trump that pro­tect­ing im­mi­grants cur­rently cov­ered by DACA is the right pol­icy and the right po­lit­i­cal move for a pres­i­dent with poor ap­proval rat­ings.

“Look, he said he would do this,” Schumer said. “I take him at his word that he will.”

Pelosi at first de­flected a ques­tion about whether she trusts Trump.

“Is that a fair ques­tion?” she asked re­porters last week, be­fore fi­nally say­ing that, on this is­sue, she does, in­deed, trust him. “I be­lieve that the pres­i­dent, [not only] be­cause of con­vic­tion, but be­cause of re­al­ity, is there for the dream­ers.”

Crit­i­cal chal­lenges ahead could hob­ble the emerg­ing deal. One is the uncer­tainty sur­round­ing an er­ratic pres­i­dent, whose en­gage­ment with Democrats — on im­mi­gra­tion, and a week ear­lier on short-term fis­cal pol­icy and hur­ri­cane re­lief — was not ex­pected and not part of a grand plan.

“I’m not sure there is a broader strat­egy,” said Rep. Joseph Crow­ley (D-N.Y.), a lieu­tenant in Pelosi’s lead­er­ship team. “I don’t think we should be sur­prised if he comes back next week, and he’s work­ing with Repub­li­cans only. It’s a case-by-case ba­sis.”

Re­gard­ing the scope of bor­der-se­cu­rity mea­sures, Schumer said he sig­naled sup­port for four points of tough­ened se­cu­rity: elec­tronic sur­veil­lance at the Mex­i­can bor­der, de­tec­tion de­vices fo­cused on drug smug­glers, im­proved in­fra­struc­ture along the bor­der and more search he­li­copters.

But Ryan, try­ing to re­assert the power of con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, added some­thing to the talks. “We need bor­der se­cu­rity and en­force­ment as part of any agree­ment,” he said Thurs­day, the morn­ing af­ter Trump’s White House hud­dle with the two Democrats.

The “en­force­ment” por­tion of his re­marks set off alarm bells in the His­panic cau­cus. “Where is it go­ing to lead, once the alt-right starts rais­ing their voices, which they’ve al­ready be­gun and will only become louder?” asked Gu­tiér­rez, re­fer­ring to the white na­tion­al­ist move­ment that has sup­ported Trump and loudly ad­vo­cated

“Repub­li­cans have shown they can’t keep 50 out of 52 mem­bers in line.” Marc Short, the White House di­rec­tor of leg­isla­tive af­fairs, on Pres­i­dent Trump’s work­ing with Democrats in Congress on cer­tain is­sues

for tougher im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

These Democrats, for in­stance, will not sup­port a deal to add thou­sands of agents na­tion­wide to the Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency, a step they fore­cast would lead in turn to a surge in de­por­ta­tions.

An­other po­ten­tial deal­breaker is the ques­tion of whether dream­ers would be given a path to ci­ti­zen­ship or merely per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus. Pelosi and Schumer said they were spe­cific with Trump in ex­plain­ing that he would sup­port the Dream Act in­tro­duced by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), which in­cludes op­por­tu­ni­ties for full ci­ti­zen­ship.

On Thurs­day, Trump went back and forth on this is­sue, at times seem­ing to en­dorse the Demo­cratic ver­sion of events but then back­ing away from ci­ti­zen­ship, which staunch con­ser­va­tives ve­he­mently op­pose.

Ul­ti­mately, if the deal comes to­gether, it is most likely to hap­pen fast — in weeks and not months, Schumer said. “I’d like to see it within the next lit­tle while. Look, I don’t want to set a date. Soon. Soon is the right word.”


House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) are de­fy­ing skep­tics in their party by work­ing with Pres­i­dent Trump on leg­isla­tive pro­grams.


Hun­dreds of im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates gather at the White House and marched through the District on Sept. 5 to de­fend DACA.

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