WASHINGTON - Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has all but given up efforts to negotiate a compromise to end the U.S. government shutdown that would fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall in exchange for extending legal protections for thousands of young undocumented immigrants and others who recently have lost legal status under the Temporary Protected Status program.
As late as Wednesday, Graham expressed hope that such a grand bargain could be reached.
“There is a deal to be had. It’s always been there. I think I have been boring you all for a month about how this movie ends. It’s got to be wall plus something else,” said Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina and close ally to Trump.
But on Thursday, Graham admitted that a legislative resolution to this standoff is likely out of reach, and indicated that President Donald Trump may soon invoke emergency powers to build the wall without congressional approval.
“There’s no pathway forward that I can see. The president believes that’s his power, seems to me the only way left is for him to exercise that authority. I don’t see any action in the Congress,” Graham said.
DACA and TPS
Graham’s proposal would have given President Trump the $5.7 billion he wants to build the border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, along with giving Democrats a significant concession by reaffirming former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that granted legal status to more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children.
The Trump administration attempted to terminate DACA in 2017, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently blocked the presidential rescission order, saying it was “arbitrary and capricious under settled law.”
The administration has appealed the matter to the Supreme Court, which is expected to decide in the coming days whether it will take the case.
TPS is in similar limbo. The program, which grants temporary legal status and work permits to citizens of countries suffering from natural disasters or armed conflict, was canceled by the Trump administration for about 400,000 people.
But a federal court ruled in October the U.S. government violated the law when it ended TPS for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. This case, too, may be taken up by the Supreme Court.
Last year, the Senate attempted to pass a similar bipartisan plan to extend the DACA population legal status and authorize $25 billion over the next decade for southern-border-security construction projects, including $18 billion for the wall. Various versions of proposed legislation ultimately were rejected, as some Democrats opposed the tough immigration restrictions included and many conservative Republicans objected to any form of amnesty being granted.
The sharp political divide in Washington has only deepened since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives this month, following the party’s gains in midterm elections. And neither the Democrats nor Trump seem willing to compromise to end the government shutdown.
Many Democrats don’t want to link support for legal status for young immigrants known as Dreamers, a position that most Americans support, to funding the border wall, which remains a highly controversial issue.
“That is not the negotiation we should be having. It doesn’t make any sense at all, to trade something that absolutely can and should be done for good policy and moral reasons, for something that actually should not be done for policy or moral reasons,” said Tom Jawetz, an immigration policy analyst at the Democratic leaning Center for American Progress policy institute.
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The Democratic leadership, Jawetz says, does not trust Trump to support any deal, and believes the president wants to keep immigration and border security as divisive issues to energize his core supporters in the 2020 election.
Trump’s demand for border wall funding to end the government shutdown, after earlier indicating he would sign a short-term funding bill with no money for the wall, is seen by many as a reaction to conservative media criticism that he was capitulating on his central campaign promise to “build the wall.”
But some hard-line anti-immigration groups that support Trump, like the Center for Immigration Studies, view the wall as more symbolic than essential to significantly restrict illegal immigration. Granting a mass amnesty in exchange for the wall is a deal they would not support.
“A wall is not the most important enforcement procedure, and it’s also not the thing we want most in terms of immigration reform. So to give away something big like an amnesty for people who aren’t even supposed to be in the country, we would want some significant concession,” said Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Increasing the number of agents, judges and detention facilities at the border, reforming the immigrations system to quickly deport most asylum-seekers that critics say are actually economic migrants, and increasing enforcement efforts to ensure U.S. businesses do not hire undocumented immigrants, Camarota says, would more effectively deter illegal immigration.
But the Trump administration may not have liked the linkage either. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday that DACA is not up for negotiation until the Supreme Court weighs in.