Monday, December 31, 2018

Bequeath Not

Matthew Yglesias realizes

The action at the border these days, in terms of immigration, is about asylum seekers, whole family units who arrive and either cross at legal ports of entry or else deliberately present themselves to Border Patrol after crossing illegally.

That's part of the reason the Administration is focused instead on the wall, whatever they're trying to pass it off as today. The New York Times' Haberman reports

The concrete border wall that President Trump has repeatedly called for as a signature campaign promise is not actually a wall and has not been since “early on in the administration,” the outgoing White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, said in an interview published Sunday.

The comments further muddy the administration’s position as Mr. Trump demands that Democrats provide $5 billion in funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, an impasse that has led to a partial government shutdown after the president abruptly pulled out of a compromise deal to keep the government funded through February. They were also notable given Mr. Trump’s insistence for most of his term that the border would have a wall, not the “steel slat barrier” he has pivoted toward in the past few weeks.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Mr. Kelly told The Los Angeles Times.

Alarmed that the base might hear that and recognize the scam, President Trump on Monday morning tweeted

Whatever Trump means by people dying- he's not referring to children dying while in CBP custody- giving this President any money for a wall is bad policy and probably worse strategy. But Trump's quick response is a sure sign both that he wants a concrete wall badly, and that he is losing.

So the short-term strategy for congressional Democrats must be to deny Trump any money for a wall. Claiming victory is always his goal, the oxygen that gives him life. "And some of you are friends and you're going to call," candidate Trump boasted at a campaign rally, "and you're going to say, 'Mr. President, please, we can't take it anymore, we can't win anymore like this, Mr. President, you're driving us crazy, you're winning too much."

Once the government is re-opened, as Yglesias points out, attention should turn to  long-term issues, primarily "internal enforcement, asylum law, the treatment of long-settled unauthorized migrants, and future flows of legal immigration."

Good luck with that. Internal enforcement involves ICE, which the left generally doesn't like much and the right places miles behind CBPP as its government agency of choice.  Processing asylum claims will require personnel and money but increasing the number of government employees is not high on the wish list of Republicans.  While visa overstays outnumber individuals illegally crossing the border(s), and most Democrats are on principle against throwing law-abiding individuals out of the country, and most Republicans don't have the stomach for it.  While the Trump Administration would like to cut the quota for illegal immigrants, Democrats are a hard sell.

However, running a massive government in a global economy requires difficult choices, ones far beyond demanding that "Dreamers" get a fair shake.

After Democrats smashed Republicans in the mid-terms, Jamelle Bouie argued

when faced with Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for his border wall with Mexico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered the $1.6 billion that Democrats had previously agreed on. This may not constitute support for “the wall” itself, but it does miss how the landscape has changed. The president’s immigration policies are unpopular. Schumer had political space to make a lower bid, or no bid at all. But he doesn’t seem to grasp the extent of his party’s political advantage or understand the value of opposition. He seems stuck in a past where voters rewarded compromise and bipartisanship, unable to see how this doesn’t apply to the Democrats’ relationship with Donald Trump.

President Trump's immigration policies probably are as not unpopular as Bouie believes. However, as he would understand, the best way to make those policies, and Trump himself, popular would be to give him what he wants. And that is to deliver to him any amount of money for what he could credibly claim is a "wall."

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