Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Opinion: Is an immigration deal close, despite Trump?

This is the time of year when I have both eyes on the state’s business under the Gold Dome and maybe half an ear attuned to what’s going on in Washington. (It’s a neat trick: Stare straight ahead at the computer screen, think about your ear until it sort of twists and rises up, and ... LOL, you really tried it, didn’t you? Be honest, now ...) 

In any case, I gather there’s been a hullabaloo this week about immigration. As per usual, everyone seems to be more focused on something President Trump said -- something about "(bleep)-hole countries" that I won’t repeat on this family-friendly blog -- than on what may be actually happening. Now, it’s true that what Trump said was not just cretinous but, as is often the case, a blow to his own side’s argument. Let’s set aside for a moment the obvious racial connotations. The policy preference he reportedly distilled as wanting people from Norway (read: rich) vs. Africa or Haiti (read: poor) would be better framed as a question of skills. And that has nothing to do with where a person comes from or what they look like. So even if one is inclined to give Trump the biggest benefit of the doubt, his gross over-simplification brought race and class into a debate that ought to be about education and skills. One wonders if we can even go back to that debate now. 

Again, though, there is what Trump said and there is what may actually be happening. The latter ought to matter more, so let’s take a look.

All this began because a group of six senators, Republicans and Democrats, thought they’d hammered out an agreement on how to deal with DACA recipients in exchange for some additional funding for border security. Whatever Trump said in his meeting with them Thursday -- and he’s now denying that he said exactly what he’s accused of saying -- it’s clear he isn’t interested in this particular deal:

Trump said last year he would end the DACA program in March, and Democrats insist a resolution to the issue must be part of the next government-funding measure, which is due in a week.

There is reason to believe the deal might not be all that great. Here is Robert VerBruggen writing at National Review about why making the E-Verify program for employers mandatory, not funding for the wall on the southern border, is the right trade to make for legalizing the so-called Dreamers without encouraging more illegal immigration in the future. And here's his verdict on the putative deal from Thursday:

The deal currently in the works evidently does not include E-Verify. And while it stops Dreamers’ parents from becoming citizens (so they won’t be able to sponsor others to come here), it gives them a protected status, directly rewarding them for breaking the law.

“Mainly, though, it just swaps a path to citizenship for the Dreamers (including those who were eligible for DACA but didn’t apply) for a few billion in border-security funding. Back to the drawing board, guys.”

Perhaps Republicans needed Trump’s rejection of this deal to nudge Democrats toward one that could actually win his approval and become law. The question is whether the uproar about his “(bleep)-hole countries” comment will cost him and the GOP that leverage.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.