Trump’s Immigration Deal at the Brink of Disaster

If Donald Trump wished to make a mega deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, or even put an end to illegal immigration as he promised, he certainly had viable choices.

The only way to blow that opportunity would be to cross the one and only political red line that could destroy his political coalition and career by insulting the intelligence of his base and reneging on his past immigration promises.

No Amnesty, Some Deportations, and Lots of Green-Cards?
Trump could give fence-sitting congressional Republicans an opening. They could institutionalize, clean up, and legalize aspects of the plainly unconstitutional Obama DACA program, but offer only the opportunity of legal residence (not amnesty with a “path to citizenship”). In exchange, Republicans could demand clear requisites for the issuing of a green card:

1)    No past criminal convictions;
2)    Verifiable proof of U.S. residence for, say, over a year (to preclude those who would flood across the border at the scent of amnesty);
3)   Evidence that the applicant was either in school or gainfully employed and not on public assistance.

Liberals would object—given that they privately concede there are thousands among the 1-2 million “Dreamers” who are not, as they like to infer in their rhetoric, vital to the defense industry, Google techies, or Ivy League engineers, but instead have been convicted of crimes, are not working, or are living on public assistance.

More conservative Republicans would sign on to that filtered green-card concession—if in exchange Trump obtained E-Verify, an end to sanctuary cities and chain migration, deportation of non-qualifiers, newly defined rules for legal immigration, and completion of the border wall.

Open Borders Were No Accident
A compromise like that might have made it through the Republican-controlled House and Senate, but it would never have won Democratic support. The idea of any buy-in from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for more stringent immigration controls is absurd.

Why? Because whereas most Republicans do not believe in deporting every illegal alien, most Democrats do not believe in deporting any illegal alien. They cannot, given that the party long ago mortgaged its soul to its own identity politics radical base—and to the idea that progressives could obtain political power by waiting for demographics to favor them when they could not otherwise persuade voters politically.

Democrats know well that the qualifications to be included in DACA and be named a “Dreamer” are rhetorical constructs that have never been defined and never would be audited.

Deportables may be a small minority of the 1-2 million DACA cohort, but that translates nonetheless into tens of thousands of young people who came with their parents as illegal alien minors and subsequently either did not continue in school, did commit a crime, or did not get a job.

Sending thousands of these non-qualifiers back home would translate in nightly CNN portraits of noble youth unfairly deported for an “accidental,” “not really serious,” “not my fault” drunk-driving convictions or “petty,” “insignificant,” “who cares?” petty-theft guilty pleas.

More importantly, progressives prefer citizenship amnesties, not green-cards, given the entire point of open borders was always bloc voting. The more they cried “racism,” the more they trafficked in racialism, by preferring immigration that was not to be diverse and would give little consideration to skill sets or education, or to those who followed the law.

The Vast Majority of Illegal Aliens Are Not Dreamers
Liberals never understood fully their own logic that, if within a pool of 10-15 million illegal aliens, some are judged deserving of amnesty, then that fact is an argument that others are more likely not to be deserving of amnesty.

The irony of Trump’s DACA mess is that he likely could have achieved, without the Schumer-Pelosi Democrats, a “comprehensive immigration reform” grand bargain.

The deal would have united congressional Republicans, Trump’s base, and (secretly) a majority of blacks and even Latinos. Minorities and the poor suffer first hand, and most grievously, the effects of a porous border, an overtaxed social services industry, schools unable to cope with influxes of non-English speakers, gangs, and low wages driven down by cheap imported labor.

The outline of such a real and necessary Republican reform would look like this:

Of the 10-15 million illegal aliens, Trump would enact a strict screening filter: Criminal convictions: deportation; no record of gainful employment: deportation; no proof of sustained residence: deportation.

He could empathetically add that the non-criminal deportees, like any other in this 6-billion-person world, were welcome to apply for legal U.S. residence after they were deported and after they went to the back of the legal line in their home countries for possible lawful entrance into the United States.

And what about the current estimated 70 percent of illegal aliens who are working, not on public assistance, free of criminal convictions, and have a verifiable long-term residence?

As with the DACA cohort, Trump could offer not amnesty, but the opportunity to receive legal residence via a green card, subject to the conditions of paying a fine and learning English.

Whether green-card holders pursued the long process and expense of citizenship would be up to each individual applicant and judged on a case-by-case basis. Past custom suggests that only about one-third of green-card holders would later seek citizenship.

The Price of a Green Card
In exchange for a green card, Trump should insist on E-Verify for all employers; an end to sanctuary cities; the completion of a border fence/wall/barrier; strict enforcement of all current federal immigration statutes; and meritocratic, reduced, and diverse legal immigration.

If he wished to maximize his leverage for conceding green cards to millions of qualifying illegal aliens other than the DACA group, he could additionally try to tax foreign remittances sent by anyone who had no proof of legal residence (in partial fulfillment of his still ambiguous promise to “make Mexico pay for the wall”), and stop chain and anchor baby immigration.

The result would be that the Left would grow furious that its grand project of demographically changing the American southwestern red states to blue largely had been foreclosed.

The formidable process of melting pot intermarriage, assimilation, and integration would within 20 years—absent the annual, non-diverse infusion of 1 million foreign nationals without legality, a high school diploma, and English—nullify the Democratic Party’s dream of equating “Latino” with liberal bloc-voting, on the quid pro quo premise of affirmative action, generous entitlements, and ethnic-based spoils.

In other words, the name Lopez or Martinez would be about as helpful a prognosticator of voting habits as Giuliani or Cuomo is today. The idea of a Chicano/La Raza/Latino Studies Department in 20 years would be about as necessary or unnecessary as a contemporary Italian-Studies or Irish Studies Department.

The Art of an Immigration Deal
Trump would win Republican “moderates” who trumpeted the green-card option to qualified illegal aliens. His base would grumble but would accept the reality that sending home all 10-15 million illegal aliens en masse, perhaps 70 percent of whom were employed and without a criminal record, was never likely. But green cards for productive, law-abiding and long-residing aliens would be well worth it, in exchange for an end to illegal and chain immigration, a wall, sanctuary cities, and a sane, legal immigration and border enforcement policy.

Minority leaders privately would appreciate the fact that entry-level jobs would see wages rise, schools improve, and social services unburdened—even as they still cried publicly that Trump was a nativist and a xenophobe.

The Democratic Party would get their DACA provision, but, given their political agendas, it would be a Pyrrhic victory: without open borders, many of the assimilating DACA grantees either would not become citizen voters or, if they chose to use green cards to apply for citizenship, would likely not all remain bloc liberal voters—given the often off-putting social trends of the progressive party.

What Now?
Trump’s schizoid talk and behavior about working with Democrats on DACA may be feigned noise and bombast as part of “Art of the Deal” positioning.

Or his deer-in-the-headlights confusion may reflect a Manhattanite’s desire to be liked by elites who detest him.

Or he simply may be suicidally blind to what could have been a landmark reform deal that would have been good for the Trump project—but even better for the country.

We will find out which soon.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).

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38 responses to “Trump’s Immigration Deal at the Brink of Disaster

  • I am pretty sure that I learned to distinguish right from wrong and legal from illegal before I started kindergarten. Sure, there were cases beyond my age-appropriate and limited reasoning, but, I was at least as good at making distinctions as, say, my pet dog. Today, I would trust my dogs with questions of national security, more than I would trust a politician or legislator.

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  • Let’s see, after 8 years of telling us they have sophisticated plans to replace ObamaCare, the GOP has nothing. They derail the agenda, whine that the POTUS isn’t in on the secret screw the public game, and yet, when Trump dangles red meat for the democrats, VDH acts like this was chiseled in stone and put on top of the Washington monument. It’s talk. It’s chum. It’s his way of letting the swarm know that they aren’t the only game in town, and viola, Chuck and Nancy immediately began to try to negotiate on their own with him.
    Trump went from being Hitler in one afternoon to just a measely President and folks fail to see the brilliance of that.

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    • After 8 years of knowing ObamaCare was a miserable bloody mess, Democrats offered not one single idea to improve it…other than doubling down as they did last week by advocating for Single Payer Medicaid for All.

      Getting GOP factions together within the confines of reconciliation and a defiant D Congress is nearly impossible.

      If they get this Graham bill over the line, I’ll be utterly amazed..but it looks possible.

      Beats the pants off of ObamaCare.

  • A brilliant analysis and prospectus, as always from Prof. Hanson; but I wonder if there is not a false premiss lurking in it.

    Do the Republicans in Congress – fully part of the Swamp as most of them are – want any kind of restriction on open borders and mass immigration, any more than the Democrats?

    The Democrats of course, as Prof Hanson makes clear, desire those horrors – open borders, mass immigration – as a way of gerrymandering a permanent vast electoral majority for themselves. But Big Money wants them too as a way of obtaining cheap labor with few rights and as a means of lowering most wages across the board in all forms of middle- and working-class employment. (Bring in so many millions per decade and then cherry-pick the few who are employable: that’s Big Money’s strategy. The vast numbers added to the population of themselves squeeze everyone below the ultra-wealthy rank of power and influence. After all, Big Money does not pay for the criminals, unemployed, unemployable &c. It is the ordinary regular taxpayer who subsidizes the costs they engender.)

    And Big Money owns both wings of the Uniparty = the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

    There is one glaringly obvious question which no-one ever seems to address.

    If enough of the Third World arrives in the USA, then the Third World takes over. The United States becomes, in short order, a Third World culture with everything in a concatenation accordingly. The best American traditions disappear, the country turns effectually into Brazil or Venezuela, only with a different name. Halfway through this social revolution, those individuals rise to the very top who are the single most criminal and ruthless in society: the Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot types. (One must bear in mind that it will be gangsters running the barrios where most people will ‘live’ in such a land, not the White House, Congress, state legislatures or city councils.)

    The Wealthy will be expropriated and slaughtered; so will the Noisy Left – the new dictators won’t want any challenge – and living standards will be abominable for nearly everyone in nearly every district.

    Who benefits, therefore – apart from a psychopathic tyrant and his/her henchfolk – from all this social engineering which has deliberately flooded the USA since 1965?

    Do the ultra-wealthy and politically cunning never think these matters through?

  • There’s no safe Immigration Policy for America save mass deportation.

    There is not one condition above where they remain where legions more do not come: this after 30 years of betrayals we know and that’s all we can rely on.

    They do not assimiliate because they have come to colonize and they make that obvious openly and at every opportunity.

    There is no Deal – there is either loyalty or betrayal and no middle ground.

    • You are absolutely correct about them sticking their (mexican, guatemalan, whatever) flags in the ground here. In small towns near where I live (in the northern part of the USA) the mexicans even refer to themselves in a group as “la colonia.” And of course we all know about La Raza.
      VDHanson is so far off in his assessment that he seems delusional. There is by no means

    • There are some exceptions, but largely you’re correct and it’s a great point. To take an example, when the U.S. plays against [Mexico, Honduras, etc.], who do immigrants root for? The answer matters, much more than we realize. If people reallly loved this country, they would not disrespect it by flaunting our laws.

  • Another fine essay from VDH. The thing is, the Democrats really didn’t think through the whole ‘demographic victory’ concept (imagine that). As is well known, the Democratic Party has a pro-abortion constituency (mucho donor dinero). Feinstein and Durbin recently exposed a certain anti-Catholic bias. Here’s the problem, the Hispanic/Latino population are very often very Catholic and anti-abortionl. The inherent conflict between the Democratic Party’s ‘woman vote’ and the Catholic Hispanic/Latino anti-abortion vote cannot be lost on the Democratic leadership, can it? If it is, they’re in for a big surprise. But, if the are aware, then a good case can be made that the Democrats have to make a deal that limits immigration they just don’t want to be seen wanting to make the deal.

    The truth is, demographics are about to doom the Democratic Party as the centrifugal effects of identity politics begin to tear the Party apart. The question is whether they will take the rest of the country down with them because GOPe and DJT make a bad deal now.

    Anne Coulter has some tart and trenchant things to say on this same subject over at Breitbart regarding the Democrats, Republicans, Trump and a ‘third party’ where the candidates actually support positions that are popular with large percentages of the electorate.

    • The Democrats are forced to import an ever-expanding list of ethnic minorities precisely because their unholy insistance on abortion on-demand continually shrinks the Party’s ready pool of willing voters. This has been going on ever since the effects of Roe v. Wade began to reverberate. The Democrat’s problem is that most of the groups they welcome view abortion as abhorrent to their cultural and religious beliefs.

  • Candidate Donald J. Trump played his adoring sycophants for fools and now — no surprise! — there will be no mass deportations, there will be de facto amnesty and there will be no big, beautiful wall. None of the prescriptions described above will be pressed on Democrats, with the exception of some minor, cosmetic tweaks that will allow Trump to overstate as a massive reform.

    The President of the United States told the President of Mexico, verbatim:

    “You cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall,” Trump said. “I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about.”

    Asked to comment on the transcripts, Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said only that he “can’t confirm or deny the authenticity of allegedly leaked classified documents.”

    He has made chumps of all of us. We deserve what we are getting.

  • I would add that those dreamers who choose to apply would have to accuse their parents of felony child neglect/abuse… A felony conviction would deport the parents and bar them from re-entry. A good deterrent to any future similar scheme.

    • Excellent idea , however politicians would never have the stones to propose your plan .

  • Whatever Trump is doing is surely a mystery…I do not not think he’s clueless and I do believe he’s willing to spend political capital. But the optics of this dinner deal-making session are awful. It looks like free-wheeling versus calculation and it’s giving pause to those who desperately want to support him.

    From a Bannon-type strategy perspective, what’s needed is to flush out the ruling class republicans who support mass immigration and work to get them out of office. Without this, it’s just a matter of time before another dem president ignores the law and congress averts it’s eyes, regardless of any deal Trump makes. It’s a waste of energy to make this a perpetual issue.

    I do think Americans actually support immigration. We are a nation of immigrants and many realize the importance of new blood coming into the country. What bothers, however, is not controlling the boarder, ignoring laws, creating a new dem constituency, and displacing lower middle class Americans with cheaper illegal labor, particularly when these same Americans are simultaneously being ravaged by uncontrolled globalism to the enormous benefit of the better educated and more successful.

    While economic growth demands population and productivity growth, we have a segment of folks who were here first that are not only NOT enjoying an improving standard of living, it is steadily getting materially worse. At least some of this is due to the need to give basic services to newcomers. Address this issue and perhaps some pressure will come off the immigration issue.

    Longer term, there is a desperate need for an educational system that can help prepare the lower middle folks to compete in a global economy. The current system is failing them, bigly.

    • We were a nation of immigrants when there was a vast continent to fill, not so much now. The elites will soon have tech. gardeners and maids so the only real reason for allowing this to continue is vote farming.

      • Robotics will take over many, if not most, farming jobs within the next decade. Then what do we do with all of the newly-legalized and unemployable immigrants for whom we are now responsible?

    • Really good.

      As to the need for a better educational system, we first need a better parent system: Government needs to stop subsidizing single and incompetent parenthood. If we can get that right again then the educational system will be forced to fall in line because good parents would never put up with the s..t that pours out of our public schools.

      We HAD good public schools once: I went to them. There was nothing remarkable there and a heck of a lot less money spent than today. Involved PARENTS could make it so again.

    • We have never been “a nation of immigrants.” As John O’sullivan wrote in his review of Samuel Huntington’s book Who Are We?:

      “Huntington punctures several comforting national myths dear to both liberals and conservatives but false and sometimes destructive in their current implications. He points out, for instance, that the U.S. is not ‘a nation of immigrants.’ It is a nation that was founded by settlers—who are very different from immigrants in that they establish a new polity rather than arrive in an existing one—and that has been occupied since by the descendants of those settlers and of immigrants who came later but who assimilated into the American nation. Americans therefore are under no moral obligation to accept anyone who wishes to immigrate on the spurious grounds that everyone is essentially an immigrant. Americans own America, so to speak, and may admit or refuse entry to outsiders on whatever grounds they think fit.”

      Also, regarding “I do think Americans actually support immigration,” no. See this:

      • I don’t want to get into any arguments with Huntington, so let’s just agree that many Americans have immigrant descendants in whom they take great pride and, today, many among us are actual immigrants.

        Secondly, my assertion about American support for immigration may be overstated. But, your Vdare reference doesn’t say anything about why their samples oppose it. I would expect many are opposed for the reasons I listed, and if those were addressed opposition would be reduced.

        To reiterate my point, there are significant benefits to immigration. It is not an unalloyed bad thing to allow for new citizens and our economic vitality depends to some degree upon it. The trick is to try to get the benefit without disadvantaging those who were here first. I don’t see any easy answers.

      • There’s a panoply of serious reasons to oppose immigration — economic, cultural, civic, environmental, … — some of which you’ll find discussed here:

        As author John Tanton says, those of us who oppose immigration are guilty of asserting our self interest and/or what we see as the interests of existing America. And those who come here or want to come here are asserting their self-interest, but that’s somehow never subject to criticism.

        I wouldn’t call immigration an “unalloyed bad thing,” but it is certainly wholly unnecessary. So there really is a simple answer (though not easy politically, with all the incessant brainfarts out there like “nation of immigrants, “jobs Americans won’t do,” “Statue of Liberty” [sic], …): The Zero Option.

        Also, you wrote, “many Americans have immigrant descendants in whom they take great pride.” Yes, this is a commonplace, but I’ve never understood why people assert pride in ancestors and/or in the accomplishments of others. Appreciation I understand, but pride???

      • Have a look at where US population growth is occurring and then, separately, the relationship between economic growth and population/productivity growth. Unless you’re willing to live with no growth, which probably means increased unemployment and all that flows from that, you may decide that immigration is necessary. Whether the current levels of immigration are necessary, I do not pretend to know. But, looking at population data, the growth appears to me to be largely in groups that are immigrating (mostly Hispanics and Asians).

    • I would like to see us work out a deal where for every illegal immigrant that stays in the U.S. two (or more) liberals are forced to the illegals home countries. Actually, I wish all illegals to be thrown out and our immigration laws to be obeyed by all of us.

  • What I hope won’t happen is he is suckered by Schumer giving him wins on little, insignificant stuff, and then betrayed completely by Schumer on an immigration ‘deal’. Easy to see Trump thinking he can trust Schumer on a large issue if Schumer performed trustworthily on a small issue. THAT is the trap. Trust me, trust me, trust me….SUCKER!!

  • The wish to “deport them all” is not politically feasible. VDH’s plan is. Hope this article gets past General Kelly to Trump’s desk…

  • We have slavery in this country on a grand scale. The slaves are trafficked into this country by organized foreign crime cartels. The slaves are pressed into service in various criminal enterprises like prostitution,drug dealing,murder,extortion, auto theft,insurance fraud,identity theft,ect…. The slaveholders are protected by the fugitive slave cities that refuse to turn them over to ICE. Anyone who opposes the wall/border security are pro-slavery. Flat out! The Democrats are pro-slavery and that should be the response of every Republican and POTUS.

  • The only viable option is to enforce the law. All these games of providing a path to legal residency won’t work. Why? There is a path already. You apply for it. If you chose to enter or stay in the country illegally, you forfeit your eligibility. Period. That’s the law. Playing games will only dispirit the electoral base and it’s a slap in the face to millions of people trying to immigrate legally. Trying to immigrate, not just show the hell up with a raised middle finger. For example, you can’t allow DACA recipients a path to legal residency with no hope of citizenship. Permanent legal residents can apply for citizenship after a few years. Even if enshrined in law, you know it won’t stay that way and it would be hard to enforce anyway. Undocumented Democrats will become citizens, and they will vote for people who willl turn this country into a third world hellhole. In other words, Democrats. If Trump keeps playing with fire, he will get burned. And then we’re all screwed. Not enforcing immigration law will result in an American electorate that has little to do with America as founded. We’ll be stuck with arguing about how many days teachers can strike, and then we’ll wake up tomorrow and we’re Venezuela.

  • Green cards would suffice – why the need to make them citizens? I lived here many years with just a Green Card before I became a citizen and was able to enjoy many privileges: I worked, owned a house, had a bank account as well as health insurance through my employer, etc. Citizenship is only a ploy to gain their votes – the majority of them, from what we see on TV, do not really love this country; you see them burning the American flag while parading the Mexican flag (which is where their allegiance lies). Even though they have broken the law they have the audacity to make demands which would never be tolerated anywhere else in the world; we hear they are running away from violence in their own countries and yet become violent here. This doesn’t make sense. Why we stand by and watch liberal politicians defend and protect illegals more than legitimate U.S. citizens is totally incomprehensible to me.

  • I sure hope someone hands a copy of this article to Mr. Trump, along with highlighted elements so he can understand what myself and others committed to when we reluctantly gave him our votes last fall. Fail on this…and you can kiss any support from me bye-bye.

  • I am not sure if there are ten real American citizens that are honest to God “rule of law” people in America. I am one. Are there really nine more that are not willing to compromise their souls to Hell? Rule of law, my A!!

  • Republicans in congress have demonstrated NO willingness to do ANYTHING that puts Trump and the vast majority of patriotic Americans in a good light.

    Maybe, now that Trump has shown he’ll make deals with anyone who is willing to negotiate, the “fear of Trump and the voters” has been instilled in some of the GOPe. Still, too many of them are empty suits, owned and operated by special interests who like them stupid and compliant.

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