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Should Democrats Trade The Wall For the Dreamers?

by Marvan Buren (Principles: Politics is a contact sport) - 6 month ago

Young people are being held hostage by crass political calculations on both sides. They will eventually get a pathway to citizenship but they are going to have to wait a little longer.

Democrats in Congress are already beginning to look back on 2017 with nostalgia. Powerlessness in politics has its advantages. In 2017, Democrats could simply sit back and condemn unpopular Republican legislation and then watch voters flock to their cause in election after election throughout the country.  Even better, at year end, the polls showed Democrats having a better than even chance of winning the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms. All they need is another year in 2018 like they had in 2017. However, it’s not going to be that easy because, unlike in 2017, votes by Democrats will make a difference on many key issues in the new year.  

The first key vote they will face concerns the so called “DACA fix.” DACA, which stands for “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals” was an executive order issued by President Obama to allow people who were brought here illegally as children to remain in the country. Those individuals, known as Dreamers, have worked hard to become productive members of American society and an overwhelming majority of Americans favor giving them a pathway to citizenship.  Democrats gained political points last year when they decried President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program.

Trump, however, is looking to use this issue to his advantage and his approach is effectively to hold the Dreamers as hostages until the Democrats meet his ransom demand – to fund construction of The Wall with Mexico. Trump knows that to get reelected he needs to have pictures of himself standing next to a beautiful wall built with money allocated by Democrats. This picture would reinforce his image as a dealmaker and a politician who actually keeps his promises.   

Earlier last week, at an open meeting with Congressional leaders, Trump sent out conciliatory signals. Democrats, encouraged by that conciliatory rhetoric, worked with Republicans to create a compromise bill which addressed several of Trump’s concerns and allocated funds for “fencing” in exchange for freeing the hostages and giving them that pathway to citizenship.  But by the weekend, Trump made it clear that this compromise was not good enough and that he has no intention of releasing the hostages until enough money is allocated for the entire Wall.

So Democrats must now make a decision. One option is to up the stakes by holding the entire government hostage and demanding a DACA fix or the government shuts down. Another option is to allow for another temporary funding bill, kick the can further down the road and hope that the recent court decision reinstating DACA is not reversed. If it is reversed, they can stand firm against the Wall and hope to take over Congress in 2019.  The last option is to pay the ransom and let the President build his Wall.

The sad truth is that the Dreamers have lived their entire lives with uncertainty and the likelihood is that they are going to have to live with uncertainty for a little while longer. Politically, the best strategy for Democrats is to stand tough, demand a “clean” DACA fix, and prevent Trump from building an expensive and unpopular Wall. There is the danger that Democrats will also be seen as holding the Dreamers hostage but I suspect that is a risk they are willing to take.

Democrats know that it would be political suicide for the administration to begin deporting Dreamers, or even their parents. Further, Democrats recognize that Congressional Republicans are under enormous pressure from their base, also known as Trump’s base, to not give amnesty and to build The Wall. Weakness on this issue could lead to them losing their party’s primary.  However, once the Republican primary season is over, Congressional Republicans will have incentive to do what is popular with the general electorate and release the Dreamer hostages.

Democrats have their own primary problems and, as such, can’t afford to be seen as weak. Thus, the question of whether or not they “should” make the deal is essentially irrelevant. Hard political calculations make it clear that they will wait for a better deal.   

Hang in there Dreamers. Your time is coming but it’s just going to take a little longer. 

Comments and Responses (3)

Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Dan T - 6 month ago
Agree, there is no reason to trade a popular hostage for an unpopular one. The Democrats should find an ostensibly conservative policy that they actually support anyway and offer that in exchange for the Dreamers.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Trying to think of what that might be. Republicans have already eliminated regulations and slashed the corporate tax rate. Prison reform is favored by a few Republicans but most are recipients of contributions from the private prison lobby. Democrats previously allowed welfare reform and they are not going to agree to cuts in Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. Having trouble on this. The only think I can think of is border security and if you give Trump money for border security, he is going to build a wall. (Much like if you give Hamas money to feed their people, they will dig a tunnel)
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 6 month ago
Of course we should be pro-life and take care of the DACA children. And the concession is to insure the dreamers take the necessary steps to become US citizens and give their input on how to fix our legal immigration system. No physical wall necessary; fix immigration laws while people still want to come here.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : I don't think Republicans will see that as a concession. Allowing Dreamers to become U.S. citizens sounds too much like the dreaded word "Amnesty." Perhaps a more acceptable approach would be to require Dreamers to perform some service for the country. They can be in the military, or, to expand on your idea, they could serve in border security.
Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Facebook Commenter - 6 month ago
I am not for the wall I am for increased border security Sanctuary Cities are an issue Is time for compromise Is time to grease the squeaky wheel The budget Our government employees and families and military personnel and their families Their ass is on the line for us Let's not use these 800,000 children as hostages
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Our government should not be using people as hostages but, that is the sad nature of the state of our Democracy. I like the way your views cut across party lines, matching Democrats on the wall and on DACA while agreeing with Republicans on Sanctuary cities and funding the military. You are taking popular positions on all of these issues and it would be nice if the two parties realized that everyone would win if they would just make a deal that does exactly what you suggest.