The Dallas Morning News
Trump sealed immigration deal’s doom
After frequent mixed signals on Dreamers, he returns to hard line
WASHINGTON — As much of the country was gripped Wednesday by horrific images from the mass shooting at a Florida high school, two dozen senior Trump administration officials worked frantically into the night to thwart what they considered a different national security threat.
The looming danger on the minds of the officials was a piece of legislation scheduled for a vote the next day in the Senate. It was designed to spare hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, known as Dreamers, from deportation — but to the men and women huddled in a makeshift war room in a Department of Homeland Security facility, the measure would blow open U.S. borders to lawless intruders.
“We’re going to bury it,” one senior administration official told a reporter that evening.
The assault was relentless — a flurry of attacks on the bill from DHS officials and the Justice Department and a veto threat from the White House — and hours later, the measure died on the Senate floor.
The Trump administration’s extraordinary 11thhour strategy to sabotage the bill showed how, after weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill, it was the White House that emerged as a key obstacle to a deal to help the Dreamers.
The episode reflected President Donald Trump’s inability — or lack of desire — to cut a deal with his adversaries even when doing so could have yielded a signature domestic policy achievement and delivered part of the U.S.-Mexico border wall he repeatedly promised during the campaign.
Along the way, Trump demonstrated the sort of unpredictable behavior that has come to define his topsy-turvy tenure, sending frequent mixed signals that kept leaders in both parties guessing.
Trump told lawmakers last month that he would sign any immigration bill that made it to his desk. At one point in the fall, to the chagrin of some in the GOP, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., thought they had a deal, giving Trump billions of dollars for the wall in exchange for a Dreamer fix. Immigration advocates recalled that Trump, last year, had told the Dreamers they could “rest easy.”
In the end, Trump remained loyal to restrictionist advisers and allies, who have pressed the president to be true to his hard-line rhetoric on the issue. And Democrats and some GOP centrists are asking whether Trump ever really wanted to reach a deal in the fall when he terminated the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, placing in limbo the lives of nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
“People will begin to question the president’s credibility over his statements that he feels empathy for these young people,” said Enrique Gonzalez, a Miami-based immigration lawyer who previously served as a policy adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.