You don’t need to read “The Art of the Deal” to know that to succeed in a negotiation you must offer the other side something more attractive than just the status quo.
Yet that is what President Trump — a self-styled master negotiator — is doing by offering to extend President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years in return for $5.7 billion in border wall funding and an end to the longest government shutdown in modern U.S. history.
DACA recipients are already temporarily protected from deportation by court rulings blocking Trump’s efforts to rescind the program. And last week, the Supreme Court indicated that it wouldn’t hear the Trump administration’s appeal to these rulings in the near future. A three year stay of deportation wouldn’t materially alter their present situation.
Trump’s offer is especially underwhelming considering that of the nation’s 1.8 million “dreamers,” those who came to the U.S. illegally as children, the proposal only temporarily protects the roughly 700,000 who have enrolled in DACA.
Trump could make his offer substantive by supporting legislation to permanently legalize the dreamers — who are American in all but name. Such a move would be in line with pro-family and pro-growth conservative ideals.
Research suggests that more than one in four DACA recipients have U.S. citizen children of their own, meaning roughly 200,000 U.S. citizen children have a parent who is a DACA recipient. Leaving these families in legal limbo with a mere three year reprieve prevents them from planning for the future and keeps the threat that they will be separated from each other hanging over their heads.
Dreamers are productive members of society. According to research by the American Action Forum, DACA recipients contribute $42 billion in annual GDP and a net $3.4 billion to the U.S. Treasury. Legalizing the dreamers would increase these economic gains by making it easier for them to work and take better jobs. More than half of DACA recipients moved to a better job once they were granted status.
A strong bipartisan majority of Americans supports legalizing the dreamers, with nearly 9 in 10 Americans and three-quarters of Republicans saying they should be allowed to stay.
While legalizing the dreamers should be the starting point in Trump’s next offer, ideally he should also support reform to expand work visas. This policy would address the root cause of illegal immigration: the lack of legal options for economic migrants and those who “yearn to breath free” to pursue the American dream.
Republicans have a proud tradition of supporting market-based work visas as an immigration solution. “Rather than talking about putting up a fence,” said then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980, “why don’t we … make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit?” In 2004, President George W. Bush proposed a new temporary worker program that would issue extended non-sector specific work visas, with availability fluctuating based on the number of available jobs in the country. President Dwight Eisenhower presided over a significant expansion of the Bracero program, a Mexican guest-worker program, and saw illegal immigration plummet as a result.
Expanded work visas would do more to reduce the pressure on the border than a wall. A border wall — like so much of government policy — only tries to cure the symptoms of an underlying problem, and it wouldn’t even succeed at treating those.
Jordan Bruneau is a senior policy analyst at the Becoming American Initiative, a group dedicated to promoting the positive impact that immigrants have on society.