Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Trump is in over his head on Dreamers issue

Donald Trump wrote the book on the art of the deal.

Now he says he wants to cut a deal with the Dreamers.

At issue is the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In a sneaky twist on self-deportation, President Obama conned 800,000 undocumented young people into turning themselves into Immigration and Customs Enforcement in exchange for a temporary reprieve. Yet the only “action” being deferred was deportation.

In time, the Dreamers might have figured out that the Democratic president was not the friend he pretended to be.

But, as usual, Trump made the DACA story all about him when he terminated the program last year. If nothing is done, Dreamers could be deported after the program expires on March 5.

Oddly, Trump had previously told reporters that he “loved” the Dreamers and that the high achievers were “terrific.”

Comments like those help explain why Dreamers have made such a large imprint on the immigration debate. According to polls, most Americans don’t think we should punish young people brought here as children for the sins of their parents or uproot them from the only country they know.

This is why liberals want to keep the Dreamers in the mix as part of the larger pool of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. It’s also why conservatives want to peel them off with a special accommodation — which could make it easier to deport the rest.

Meanwhile, Trump claims he’ll support a bill giving legal protection to Dreamers — especially if, in return, he gets a truckload of goodies from Congress. He wants funding for a proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and support for his administration’s crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities. He also wants a radical revamp of the overall immigration system. The number of legal immigrants admitted to the United States each year would be cut in half. And there would also be an end to the practice that some call “chain migration” while giving preferential treatment to skilled and educated immigrants.

What Trump is asking for has nothing to do with Dreamers. It’s about shaping U.S. immigration policy going forward — which, although Republicans refused to admit it when Obama was in the White House, a president has the right to do. So if the Dreamers can get Trump and Congress to improve on DACA by giving them permanent legal status, even if it doesn’t come with citizenship, they’d be wise to take the deal.

Yet, apart from serving the narrow interests of the Dreamers, the proposed bargain would be bad for the country. And the terms are sure to be harmful to the immigration debate. The concern isn’t that Trump is asking too much. It’s that what he’s asking for is impractical. Some of it doesn’t make sense. Other parts won’t work. And, overall, the items on his wish list would make America weaker.

Take funding for the wall, which is expected to run as high as $25 billion. Forget Democrats. Republican budget hawks will never sign that check, not for a publicity stunt on the border that won’t keep out the desperate, destitute and determined.

Or the administration’s war on alleged sanctuary cities, those make-believe municipalities where federal immigration law doesn’t exist and illegal immigrants live happily ever after. If you want to visit one of these places, follow the signs for Fantasyland.

Then there’s the targeting of chain migration, where immigrants bring in family members. What many people are really worried about is changing demographics. But you don’t say so because you don’t want to be called racist — even though you kind of are.

Finally, there’s the offensive idea of making America tougher to get into than the Ivy League — with an elitist point system that would have kept out most of the Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants who helped build this country. It’s absurd. There is all this loose talk about how the United States should only admit immigrants with high education and valuable skills. Yet the people pushing this idea aren’t smart enough to understand the value of the skills most immigrants bring to this country — like ambition, perseverance, optimism, ingenuity or work ethic.

Trump probably thinks that, by asking for a slew of concessions on immigration, he is showing Americans that he’s a tough negotiator. But all the president is demonstrating is that — on this issue — he is in way over his head.

And that’s a big deal.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Moms are fighting for gun violence prevention in Texas – and winning
Moms are fighting for gun violence prevention in Texas – and winning

Five years ago, I watched news of the Sandy Hook school shooting unfold in horror. When the scope of the tragedy was confirmed, I got up to tell my husband, only to fall to the floor. Although I didn’t know the families impacted by this devastating shooting, as a mom of two young kids, it felt deeply personal to me. Immediately after Sandy Hook...
Facebook comments: Jan. 21, 2018
Facebook comments: Jan. 21, 2018

As reported by the American-Statesman’s Mark D. Wilson and Sebastian Herrera, Amazon announced that Austin made its short list of 20 cities that could become the site of its second headquarters. More than 238 cities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico submitted applications for Amazon’s HQ2. Dallas was the only other Texas city to make the cut...
Herman: Let’s eavesdrop on two Texas Repubs going at it on Twitter
Herman: Let’s eavesdrop on two Texas Repubs going at it on Twitter

Through the miracle (menace?) of Twitter, let’s eavesdrop on a conversation between two of our duly elected state officials. But first, let’s meet our players. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (known to some as “Sticky”) is a Republican from the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Bedford. He’s a keep-government-out-of-our-lives...
Letters to the editor: Jan. 21, 2018
Letters to the editor: Jan. 21, 2018

Re: Jan. 16 commentary, “Herman: Sen. John Cornyn continues to tolerate President Trump.” Sen. Cornyn does more than “tolerate” President Trump. He voted for him, and by remaining silent when the president lies, bullies someone, insults our allies, makes a racist comment, or attacks America’s free press and all the millions...
‘Oliver Loving’ is a vividly rendered exploration of school shootings
‘Oliver Loving’ is a vividly rendered exploration of school shootings

Ten years later, a school shooting in West Texas is revisited from the perspective of a family it changed forever in Stefan Merrill Block’s “Oliver Loving.” What we know, what Eve Loving, her husband, Jed, and their son, Charlie, know, is this: a recent graduate named Hector Espina Jr. returned to the Bliss Township School campus...
More Stories