President Donald Trump made a daring move on Wednesday, mapping out the beginnings of a deal with Democratic minority leaders to save “Dreamers,” the young immigrants who were given temporary protections from DACA, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. That is a positive, compassionate move that should bring support from those who have worked hard to protect the 800,000 people who now live in daily fear of deportation from the only homeland they remember.
Trump will need all the support he can get, because establishment Republican leaders are already pushing back. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the morning after Trump’s dinner with Democrats that there was “no deal,” pointedly adding, “I think the president understands he has to work with the congressional majorities to get any kind of legislative solution.”
Ryan should understand that the president is putting him on notice. Above all else, Trump considers himself a dealmaker. He values “closers” — those who find a way to make things happen. He has become increasingly impatient with GOP leadership that, in his view, keeps flubbing the ball on health care, infrastructure, trade and now, immigration.
Buoyed by recent success with Democrats on averting a government shutdown over the debt limit, Trump has turned again to a couple of wily, hardened dealmakers: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. If what emerges is a package that enacts border security enhancements the country actually needs while giving DACA protections the permanence of law, that is the kind of bipartisan problem-solving Americans should applaud. Some rank-and-file congressional Republicans already have signaled there may indeed be room for compromise. North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, who leads the House Freedom Caucus, said that “if we try to get the political rhetoric out of it and actually look for real solutions,” a deal is “entirely possible.”
DACA is, in fact, a problem worth solving. Born of an executive order from President Barack Obama in 2009, it was a temporary measure at best, limited in scope because it lacked the full force of enacted law. The protections it offered were needed then and now, sheltering those brought here so young that many have no memory of their birth country. Some do not even speak its language. The only home these young people know is here.
They have attended American schools, served in this country’s military, worked at jobs, paid taxes and kept clean records — otherwise they would not even be eligible for DACA. To qualify for the program, they had to come out of the shadows and offer all of the personal information that will make them sitting ducks for deportation, should it come to that. Offering them legal protection while this country finally sorts out its immigration reform mess is an act of compassion and intelligence — these are the kind of hardworking go-getters who already are assets to this country.
Because Trump is keenly aware of public opinion, it has not escaped his notice that a majority of Americans strongly support finding a way to allow Dreamers to stay — and that includes a plurality of Republicans. Additionally, Trump himself said earlier that as far as Dreamers were concerned, he had “a big heart” and they needn’t worry. It therefore surprised many when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA was being rescinded within six months. Trump said then he wanted a deal, and he has taken the first real step toward making that happen. Trump has shaken up the political establishment in many unsettling ways since becoming president. We have disagreed with many of his decisions. But this is an example of where turning over the table may break the partisan gridlock that has kept this country from tackling the comprehensive immigration reform it so badly needs.