On Sept. 13, President Trump met with the minority leaders of their respective houses, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, over a meal of Chinese food. Reportedly, they agreed to a deal on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which included more border security without building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Though there were immediate disputes as to what was agreed to, the session offered some hope for a resolution to an immigration problem that has dogged the federal government for at least half a decade. More than 800,000 individuals are affected by a program started in the Obama administration in 2013 to protect mostly young illegal immigrants. DACA took form as it became clear that broader immigration reform was not possible.
Unfortunately for the Sept. 13 deal, the White House has returned with a proposal that includes limits to legal immigration, sanctuary city punishment and border wall funding - all non-starters for Democrats.
The DACA program is a political issue for the new administration since much of President Trump's election success was due to a hardline position on immigration with aggressive deportation and a closed border symbolized by a wall. But, there is little support for deportation (14 percent in favor, 83 percent against, Fox News 2017) and less than one-third of the public favors a wall.
The president would like to use DACA as an issue, both to attract Democrats and get a win. But, he also needs to leverage it for his proposals on immigration. Public support for a resolution favorable to DACA is high, with 86 percent of the public voicing support for allowing DACA individuals to stay. Seventy-nine percent support granting citizenship to the immigrants under 30 years old who came to the U.S. as children, according to a new Fox News poll.
A solution became urgent when, on Sept. 5, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program would expire on March 5, 2018, if Congress doesn't pass legislation. Both parties have members that don't support the compromise proposed at the White House dinner. Many Republicans want DACA ended or, at a minimum, transformed into a much more onerous program of requirements. Hence, they will favor the White House proposal. Some Democrats want no additional immigration and border enforcement increases.
Although the public in general favors a DACA solution, including Republicans, the Republican base represented by Trump voters has a higher support level for deportation (31 percent Trump voters vs. 14 percent U.S.) and the wall. This produces tension for Republicans facing the 2018 election in swing districts, such as Colorado's Congressman Mike Coffman, and even for Colorado Senator Cory Gardner who must start worrying about 2020, including a possible primary.
Is this Congress capable of making a deal?