On Tuesday, Donald Trump talked about a “bill of love” for DREAMers.
On Thursday, the president rebuffed a bipartisan deal proposed by six U.S. senators to address immigration. He then wondered aloud why America should accept so many immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti.
It’s a long way from “bill of love” to “shithole,” but we made the trip in record time.
As has often been the case, Trump—once thought to be a consummate deal-maker—is sending mixed signals. One day he sounds like a compassionate conservative, the next day he sounds like an angry racist. How do you negotiate with someone like that?
By the same token, Democrats, as The Washington Post has noted, “remain resolutely opposed to wall funding,” the one issue that seems to be Donald Trump’s white whale.
Donald Trump’s capricious behavior certainly complicates things, but there’s a pretty long history of Republicans and Democrats failing to reach bipartisan consensus that can actually pass both houses of Congress, let alone be signed into law. So how can we do it?
As hard as this is to do, the first step will be to quit viewing the other side as evil, and consider that the other guy might have legitimate concerns.
If we assume congressional Democrats are negotiating in bad faith, then we assume that (a) they view more illegal immigration as a potent source of future Democratic voters (which explains their aversion to a wall), and (b) secretly do not want to solve any problems when doing so would let Donald Trump then take credit for a signature “accomplishment.”
Likewise, if we assume congressional Republicans are negotiating in bad faith, we assume they (a) want to maintain a white electorate that will presumably skew Republican, (b) harbor racist attitudes that influences their immigration stance, and (c) secretly want to scuttle any deal so they can impress donors and talk-radio hosts with their purity.
Yes, there are people on both sides of the aisle who are motivated by these cynical calculations.
No, we shouldn’t attribute these motives to everyone—not if we hope to actually reach a consensus.
Politics aside, many Democrats sincerely do care about the plight of immigrants and refugees. And many Republicans legitimately do worry about the toll of finding ways to assimilate new immigrants into American culture—as well as the potential cost to working-class Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Holding these views does not make you a bad person. In fact, the valid arguments both sides make are completely compatible—if we assume both parties are negotiating in good faith.
And why stop at DACA? Just as only Nixon could go to China, it may ironically be that only Trump could do immigration reform. Based on what has transpired these last 24 hours, this sounds crazy. But with Trump’s support, I firmly believe most Republicans would support DACA and amnesty—contingent on the construction of a border wall and the ending of chain migration. But Democrats would have to support funding a wall to get this done.
The word “amnesty” drives Republicans insane. The word “wall” has the same impact on Democrats.
This is what’s called a fair trade.
As far as I can tell, there are three valid reasons to oppose the wall, but none of them are a hill to die on.
First, of course, we don’t need a wall—at least, not 2,000 miles of it. Even John Kelly—now Trump’s chief of staff—acknowledged that we don’t need to build it “from sea to shining sea.”
Second, it will cost $20 billion (and, again, we don’t need it).
Third—and this is the one that bothers me most—there’s something about the symbolism of building a wall that I don’t like.
These are all valid reasons why, all things being equal, we might choose to scrap the idea. But are these reasons big enough to scuttle a deal that protects DREAMers from being deported? I say no.
Don’t get me wrong, $20 billion is a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to our budget.
Then again, I don’t like the fact that that I have to go through full-body scanners at the airport. Security comes at a cost. There are trade-offs.
Sometimes getting along with others involves not only doing things you’d prefer not to do—but doing things that you might view as inefficient and, in fact, even counterproductive.
Personally, I don’t understand why Republicans care so much about the wall. On the other hand, I don’t understand why Democrats care so much about it, either. I don’t have strong feelings about a border wall in general.
And neither should you.
Yes, it’s wasteful. No, it’s not the most effective deterrent. But for what amounts to a drop in the bucket of our budget, you get so much more. You get to protect kids who were brought here through no fault of their own, and you get to appease Americans who believe that politicians have consistently failed to do something about securing the border.
The cost? $20 billion and you have to endure watching Trump put on a hard hat, cut a ribbon, and save face. (I secretly suspect the latter would hurt many observers more than the former, but sometimes playing to one man’s vanities is worth it.)
This is compromise. This is what adults do. This is what six U.S. senators tried to do on Thursday. This has to get done.