Just in case any of our elected representatives didn’t notice, we’re going to run out of money (again) in a few days. As you may recall, the largest sticking point in the recent edition of Shutdown Theater was the lack of an agreement on a DACA bill. As Ed mentioned earlier, there is a new proposal to get Congress moving on settling the matter and it’s coming in the form of a bipartisan, gang-style arrangement between Senators John McCain and Chris Coons. The details remain a bit sketchy, but the Washington Post has what little we know about it so far.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) plan to formally introduce a bill that would grant permanent legal status to immigrant “dreamers” and start bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the measure would not immediately authorize spending the $25 billion President Trump is seeking to fortify the border with new wall and fence construction. Some Republicans are seeking at least $30 billion.
The McCain-Coons plan also would grant legal status to dreamers who have been in the country since 2013 — a larger pool of immigrants than the 1.8 million Trump supports legalizing.
The bill says nothing about curbing family-based legal migration or making changes to the diversity lottery program — two other priorities for Trump and conservative Republicans.
First of all, while it doesn’t always produce good (or at least acceptable to conservatives) results, it’s nice to see a couple of members from opposite sides of the aisle at least attempting to get something done. Also, in the interest of being at least a bit positive, I’ll repeat my position of believing that conservatives will eventually have to engage in some compromise on the entire DACA question. It’s the only way that we’re going to get a lot of the border security measures which are obviously needed but still require some buy-in from the Democrats. An absolute, zero amnesty but give us everything we want on border security approach will get us nothing.
Yet, even with all that said, rushing into an agreement such as is being proposed here would be foolish. There are more questions to be answered and more negotiating in good faith to be done. First, McCain is talking about amnesty for a pool of not just current DACA recipients, and not even those who might have previously qualified (which more than doubled the original number), but yet another level of expansion. Now we could be talking about amnesty cases pushing the three million mark. A line has to be drawn somewhere.
Next, the initial language is a bit vague on precisely what their status would be. If by “permanent legal status” they are talking about Permanent Resident Alien status, with no discussion of some future path to citizenship, voting and all the rest, then fine. When we settle on a final number of qualified applicants, that could work, as much as it sticks in the craw to be handing out that amount of amnesty. But if it includes some language on the back page about an express lane to naturalization after “x” years, we should take a pass on that.
Also, this is yet another deal such as what Chuck Schumer envisioned, where we get nothing in return but border wall funding. But it’s not even solid funding. It’s an agreement to:
“require the secretary of homeland security to submit to Congress a new southern border security strategy within a year of the bill’s passage. That plan would need to include “a list of known physical barriers, levees, technologies, tools, and other devices that can be used to achieve and maintain situational awareness and operational control along the southern border” and a projected cost per mile for any changes.”
Let me translate that for you. No money for the wall and other border security needs now. No money this summer. No money by Christmas. Instead, a “plan” would be submitted in 2019 with “projected costs” and then the Democrats will sit down to discuss it. That’s after the next midterms, and if the Democrats actually do manage to take back one or both chambers of Congress you can imagine what they’ll be willing to “discuss” at that point as we head into the presidential election cycle. Zero. Zip. Nada.
No thank you. We’ve got the hammer right now but we won’t have it forever. Money for the wall and other border security needs has to be up front. And we may not get everything on the wish list in terms of chain immigration, ending the lottery, Kate’s Law, etc. but we damn sure need to get some of it. This deal is woefully short of anything that the GOP leadership should consider at this point. And if the Democrats want to shut the government down again over this issue, I say go for it. You saw how well that worked last time.