Congress is set to debate immigration reform next week and the White House is trying to get out in front of the issue by floating a compromise plan.
The proposal includes giving 1.8 million children of illegal aliens a path to citizenship while ending chain migration and the visa lottery. In addition, the proposal would keep legal immigration at about a million a year for the next ten years. Thereafter, changes to the visa program would result in a cut in legal immigration of several hundred thousand.
But a White House official said Saturday that the Trump administration is working with allies in the Senate on a proposal that would create a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million people who were brought to the country illegally as children, and that would clear the backlog of nearly 4 million sponsored relatives who currently are waiting for green cards.
The combined effort, officials said, would effectively make up for the cuts in other immigration categories for about 13 years, the official said. After that, if Congress takes no additional action to add or expand visa categories, the total number of people allowed to resettle in the U.S. each year likely would decline by hundreds of thousands.
This is entirely unsatisfactory to those Republicans who want to severely cut legal immigration and deport DREAMers. The question is, does the White House plan have a chance in hell of passing?
On Saturday, Trump accused the Democrats of trying to politicize the Dreamers’ plight ahead of the midterm election in November.
“Republicans want to fix DACA far more than the Democrats do,” he tweeted. Democrats “only want to use it as a campaign issue.”
Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), have signaled privately to the White House they are willing to negotiate Trump’s demand for $25 billion as part of a broader immigration package that would include help for the Dreamers.
The money would go into a “trust fund” for walls or fences on the southern border, as well as other border security purposes.
The hardest sell for Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates has been Trump’s insistence on limiting the types of family members that U.S. citizens and permanent residents can help resettle in the U.S., and what happens to those who already have applied.
Trump is going to need a lot of Democratic votes to see a compromise passed, and that will prove difficult. Trump is right. It’s far more politically advantageous for Dems if no immigration reform — including keeping DREAMers from being deported — is passed. The Democrats will simply blame Trump and the Republicans and energize their Hispanic base.
But there is danger for the Democrats as well. Most Americans do not suffer from Trump hatred and the White House proposal will sound reasonable to a majority of Americans. There is much emotionalism in the debate over legal immigration and refusing to cut the number of immigrants for 10 years would satisfy a lot of voters.
Twice now Democrats have overplayed their hand, resulting in two government shutdowns. If Democrats like Schumer are willing to compromise, it may mean that they’ve learned their lesson.