Trump Using Dreamers Like Piñata to Get His Wall

Created: 26 January, 2018
Last update: 20 April, 2022

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

The federal government shut down for three days last week because Trump and Democrats couldn’t find a way to resolve the issue of immigration, particularly, how to deal with nearly 1 million Dreamers.

Trump wants to fund his border wall. Democrats want to protect undocumented young adults that filed for DACA, the deferred action for childhood arrivals. Neither side wanted to trade one for the other.

When a short-term resolution to the shut down was announced this week, both sides blamed the other for not really wanting to deal with immigration, but neither side proposed a viable solution.

On Wednesday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he took funding for Trump’s border wall off the negotiating table, and the next morning, Trump said he wouldn’t do a deal to reinstate DACA at all.

But, by Thursday, Trump throw another plan out there, and this one will put Democrats in a tough spot.

Trump has proposed a comprehensive immigration plan that would include $25 billion for his border wall, and offered to give up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, something even Obama’s DACA program didn’t promise. The plan calls for tougher border security, but offers hope for millions of immigrants that go to school, work, and stay out of trouble.

The framework is similar to the plans that Congress has failed to pass for over 16 years called the Dream Act, which stood for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, introduced by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

The Dream Act was proposed several times over the past 16 years specifically to offer protections to undocumented immigrants brought to the US when they were minors through no fault of their own. Under certain requirements, including continuing their education, submitting to background reviews, and staying out of legal trouble, these so-called DREAMers could have obtained temporary then permanent legal status, but not a pathway to full citizenship.

When Congress failed to act on its own, President Barack Obama decided to launch another approach to protect Dreamers. In 2012, Obama initiated the policy through a memo from the Department of Homeland Security that allowed for “exercising prosecutorial discretion with respect to individuals who came to the United States as children”, and instructed the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to accept applications for the program. In all, nearly 800,000 applications were approved under DACA.

From the first day it was initiated, Republicans tried to defund and undo DACA. Legal challenges at the state and federal level charged that Obama overreached his executive powers in granting protection to undocumented immigrants. For over four years, Republicans tried several times to undue their second most hated Obama policy after Obamacare.

Then, in January 2017, their wishes came true.

With the swearing-in of Donald Trump as President, Republicans finally had a way to stop DACA. Just five days into his presidency, Trump issued an executive order to build a border wall and enforce immigration laws. Although not explicitly ending DACA, Trump struck fear in the minds of Dreamers that always worried about being deported if the program ended.

Then, on September 5th, Attorney General Jeff Session announced DACA would end, and called Dreamers “lawbreakers” who negatively impacted the wages and employment of Americans. Sessions announced that DACA would end in March unless Congress acted to find a permanent solution to their status.

During the past four months, Congress hasn’t written, proposed, or introduced any bill to deal with Dreamers. The same Congress that couldn’t repeal Obamacare, and barely passed a tax cut plan, was now tasked with trying to find a solution that has stumped Democrats and Republicans for over 16 years.

Dyring roughly the same period, Congress hasn’t passed a budget on time since 1996, so our government runs on Continuing Resolutions to keep the government working for months at a time until a budget deal is reached each year.

This year, again, Congress was operating on short term funding deals until last week when Democrats refused to go along unless Dreamers were protected. That’s when the government shut down.

This week, Trump’s White House budget director said that the President’s view on DACA depended on what he got in exchange for it, signaling that he was only willing to deal with Dreamers as a trade for what he really wants and needs to satisfy his base; a border wall.

In Trump’s world, as we have learned, his words are defined and redefined as time goes on. What was once a huge wall along the entire border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, has now become walls, fences, and electronic surveillance systems to monitor the border, with a price tag of more than $50 billion.

So, to get his border wall, Trump has tied DACA up like a birthday piñata, and takes swing at it to see if he can break it open and get his candy. For weeks, he has bartered, traded, and then walked away from the table several times, including last Friday when the budget deal fell apart and led to the shut down.

This week, though, he has put Democrats in a bind; do they now support Trump’s new proposal that looks like the Dream Act they have long sought, and give in on the border wall, or do they blow up the best offer they have had in 16 years.

This may be the closest we have ever come to resolving the issue of Dreamers, and giving them a path to citizenship that they deserve.

Trump may have worked himself into a great position, and put Democrats in a very bad one. The deal may be a bitter pill for Dems to swallow because they may have to give Trump the biggest victory of his short and troubled presidency.

The piñata may finally break for Trump, and drop his favorite candy at his feet, and be the best thing that could’ve happened for Dreamers.

It’s hard to predict what may happen in the ever-changing world of Trump, but this deal may be so far along that even Congress can’t screw it up now.

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