President Donald Trump, who based his insurgent campaign heavily on an anti-immigration platform, might end up enacting legislative amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants as his first major accomplishment.
The president and the Republican-held Congress have so far failed to enact health care reform, tax reform, and infrastructure legislation. But now the president, Republicans, and Democrats are largely on board in an effort to give legal status to beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
President Trump announced last week that the DACA program will be terminated in March 2018 in a move designed to give Congress time to “legalize” the program that protects roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants from deportation. Trump vowed to end DACA “immediately” on the campaign trail, and his decision to end the program came paired with the policy reversal to support amnesty.
“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty,” Trump said in an August 31, 2016 campaign speech focusing on immigration. Trump has held a variety of beliefs in his public life and at times said he would embrace amnesty. (RELATED: 69 Times Trump Attacked Amnesty)
However, the platform Trump ran on explicitly rejected giving legal status to illegal immigrants. The president continues to deny that he supports “amnesty,” yet enshrining legal protections for people living in the country illegally is “amnesty.”
Trump has recently started working better with Congressional Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was caught on a hot mic Thursday saying, “[Trump] likes us. He likes me anyway.”
The comments came after Schumer had dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Trump at the White House the night before. According to the two Democrats, Trump agreed at that dinner to support legislative protections for DACA beneficiaries.
House Speaker Paul Ryan seemingly left out of these negotiations said at a Thursday press conference, “there isn’t an agreement,” but that he is confident a compromise with border security measures included will arise.
Adding in border security measures to an amnesty legislation that could potentially legalize nearly 2 million illegal immigrants won’t be enough to please immigration hawks who strongly supported Trump’s candidacy.
“It is the duty and responsibility of the President and Congress to enforce our immigration laws. NumbersUSA is opposed to any attempt to trade enforcement for amnesty for the so called ‘dreamers’ to compete and take jobs from Americans and those here legally. We tried this trade in 1986 and the result was the 12 million illegal aliens currently in the United States. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. NumbersUSA and our 8 million plus activist members urge Congress and the President to put American workers first and oppose this deal,” NumbersUSA’s director of government relations Rosemary Jenks said in a statement.
Many like to point out that polling shows a majority of Americans and a plurality of Republicans support protecting illegal immigrants who arrived as children from deportation. A recent analysis from FiveThirtyEight, however, pointed out that immigration drove Trump’s Republican primary victory as his vote share in contests was highest with voters who saw immigration as the most important issue.
One way Trump could enact amnesty and still not upset too many supporters is by pairing it with the Raise Act, a piece of legislation supported by the White House that dramatically reduces legal immigration.
A source who speaks with the president told The Daily Caller that Trump’s support of amnesty is swayed by both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s support for protecting the so-called dreamers, and Trump’s love of positive media coverage, even if those outlets are despised by his voters.
Trump, a master of branding, could likely sign in amnesty and pretend it never happened. Returning to the White House Thursday after a visit to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Trump remarked, “We’re not talking about amnesty at all.”