The Immigration Blame Game
Has anyone else had it up to here with the way DC conducts business? The budget is the primary vehicle for framing the role of government, but all we hear is whom will be to blame for a government shutdown if a budget agreement isn’t reached. Of course, it’s simply a glorified statement of the obvious that it’s all politics all the time. Both sides do it, but the Democrats have turned it into an art form, primarily because they have always won the perception game.
There was a potential immigration deal on the table last week until the Democrats decided that having the issue and enhancing a “resist” election talking point was more important. Two calculations entered the fray. One is the historical truism that the GOP is always blamed for government shutdowns regardless of the cause. The other is that Trump’s approval ratings matter to the 2018 election, and anything that helps keep them in the 30s (like pushing a racist narrative) is worth the try, even if it means that Dreamers are a casualty of war.
This blame game exercise, though, may be different. First, Trump is fighting back and not accepting the conventional wisdom that the GOP always loses these debates. Second, relying on anti-Trump sentiment when the Democrats have nothing positive to run on and the tax cuts have the potential to put pocketbook issues firmly in the GOP camp may not be a Democrat career-enhancing move. And third, this time the issue in the headlines may actually matter. It’s a much tougher sell for the Democrats to hang their hat on getting a clean DACA bill as the quid pro quo for their budget support. There is really no answer to the question of why the Democrats would vote to shut down the government and penalize Americans, unless illegal aliens who broke the law were given amnesty, regardless of how appealing Dreamers are. If the GOP doesn’t blink, it just might win this one, because the odds of anything other than a continuing resolution that ducks the immigration issue is close to zero.
Lost in all the blame game finger-pointing is the fact that there is a comprehensive immigration proposal floating around that should be the basis for a successful negotiation. You wouldn’t know it though, since it has gotten virtually zero coverage in the media, probably because its authors are conservative GOP members led by Bob Goodlatte of VA.
It calls for enhanced border security with beefed-up barriers, high tech sensors and additional border security personnel, without getting caught up in the semantics of “the wall.” It ends chain migration and diversity lotteries and puts refugee programs on a case-by-case basis. It reforms the legal immigration system by increasing the green card applications for skilled workers and calls for an enhanced guest worker program. Essentially it defines “merit-based” as covering the spectrum of needs to recognize the dramatic changes in the economy since the original immigration guidelines were enacted years ago.
It’s less clear on other provisions that I think should be part of the reforms, like an E-Verify system and enforcement when employers knowingly hire non-documented workers. And it doesn’t seem to address the visa overstay problem that has become a key component of the increased illegal immigrant population. But add those and you have a comprehensive list of border security and immigration reform changes.
In return it offers an opportunity for Dreamers to attain non-permanent legal status. My view is that this doesn’t go far enough, nor does it address the current 11 million immigrants in the country illegally; both are needed to get a permanent solution. For decades the government has looked the other way on illegal immigration, essentially inviting folks to come into the country without documentation and doing nothing about it once they are here. I look at this the same way that a property owner who ignored his “no trespassing” sign forever would. At some point it becomes de facto OK for folks to come on his property. While it may go against my law-and-order instincts, we have reached a point where it would simply be wrong to pull the plug on everyone that we have winked/nodded at over the years. I would prefer that we set criteria for folks to stay and gain legal status (e.g. no other violations of law, registering, paying back taxes, etc) for both the 11 million illegals and Dreamers, as long as the border is secured, other programs eliminated, and any path to citizenship has to go through the regular process from square one. Not only do I think that is fair, it’s probably what will be needed to get a deal done. And I’d be willing to compromise on that to finally and permanently revamp the system.
Both parties have balked at this for years. The Democrats wanted to register as many dependent voters as possible, and the GOP was seeking cheap labor. Ironically, Trump may be the only one with sufficient credibility on the immigration issue to get a compromise over the finish line. But first, we will need our esteemed pols to do their job, get off TV playing the blame game, and get a budget deal done. With politics as job one, that is far from certain.