Commentary, Immigration

Gary Johnson: Trump Should Not Play the Art of the Deal with ‘Dreamers’ on Immigration

Eight hundred thousand young immigrants, known as “dreamers”, are today hoping against hope that the president of the United States is engaging in some tactic from his book, The Art of the Deal.

Otherwise, they just got the rug pulled out from under them.

Inexplicably, last Sunday, the White House issued a set of “principles”, or more accurately – demands – for any legislation to remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over young people brought or sent here as children and who are undocumented.

President Obama had, via a legally questionable administrative order, instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to prevent the deportation of these young immigrants and grant them a temporary legal status. President Trump recently cancelled that program, but gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution.

The need to replace a legally debatable administrative policy with a permanent legislative fix

Despite cancelling the program, the president had expressed some sympathy for the plight of these young people who are here without legal status through no fault of their own. Most have been educated here, consider America to be “home”, and many have even served in our military.

Replacing a legally debatable administrative policy, DACA, with a permanent legislative fix is, in fact, the best course of action. Indeed, the president had set that process in motion.

Then his Administration throws onto the table a list of demands to accompany that legislative solution that is nothing more than a rehash of the same worn-out nativist policies that have distracted us from real immigration reform for years.

There is no way Congress can deal with those demands in time to meet the March 5, 2018, deadline – after which time the “dreamers” are subject to deportation actions. And there is no way that Congress should swallow those demands.

The not-so-great-wall on the Rio Grande

After suggesting otherwise to the Democratic congressional leadership, President Trump now insists that his wall be funded as a part of any DACA legislation. He knows, Republicans know, and Democrats know that a final decision about his wall simply won’t be made in that little time — nor should it.

As a former border state governor, I have said time and again that a big, beautiful wall is a waste of money and time, not to mention a potentially ugly stain on our heritage as a nation “built by immigrants”.

By the way, I’m still curious as to which side of the Rio Grande we would put it.

Another of the administration’s demands is hiring another 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 300 federal prosecutors. Just what we need: More agents and prosecutors.

And, woven into the White House demands are a variety of measures clearly designed to make it more difficult to enter the country legally. Why do they think we have so many undocumented immigrants in the first place?

The fate of the dreamers would depend upon Congress swallowing poison pills

The list goes on, but the message is clear: We will go along with resolving the legal jeopardy undeservedly faced by hundreds of thousands of young immigrant, but only if Congress swallows an entire bottle of poison pills.

The good news is that, while the President can do a lot of things, sponsoring legislation isn’t one of them. Yes, his position is significant, but unless he is willing to exercise a veto, it won’t be the final word.

We can hope that this Sunday afternoon release of poison pill demands is something the White House borrowed from The Art of the Deal, and that no one really expects Congress to go along.

The futures of 800,000 young immigrants hang on the outcome of this ridiculous maneuvering. Those lives must not be forgotten in midst of this gamesmanship.

(Thousands of immigrants and supporters join the Defend DACA March to oppose the President Trump order to end DACA on September 10, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program provides undocumented people who arrived to the U.S. as children temporary legal immigration status for protection from deportation to a country many have not known, and a work permit for a renewable two-year period. The order exposes about 800,000 so-called “dreamers” who signed up for DACA to deportation. About a quarter of them live in California. Congress has the option to replace the policy with legislation before DACA expires on March 5, 2018. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.)