Jared Kushner departs the White House with President Donald Trump on March 15. 
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Debate over Trump’s new immigration plan is over before it starts

The broad contours of a bipartisan immigration package have been obvious for quite a while. Democrats want protections for undocumented immigrants already in the United States, while Republicans want increased funding for border security. A compromise deal would bring together both priorities, leaving both sides with what they want.

It’s a solution Donald Trump continues to avoid.

President Donald Trump will roll out a two-pronged immigration proposal on Thursday that would make sweeping changes to the legal immigration system – including requiring a civics test – and enhance border security, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

The plan, which Trump is expected to announce during an afternoon speech, avoids some of the most hot-button immigration issues of the day – including a growing backlog of asylum-seekers and the status of so-called Dreamers – and is almost certainly doomed on Capitol Hill.

The White House’s new plan is the result of months of work from Jared Kushner, the president’s young son-in-law, who’s twice presented his blueprint to unimpressed Republican senators.

Skepticism from GOP lawmakers, however, is just the start of Trump’s troubles. As Trump and his team must understand by now, Democrats – who have a significant House majority – aren’t interested in an immigration plan that ignores Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.

The White House took that knowledge and came up with a plan that ignores Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters this morning that DACA was omitted from the plan “on purpose” because, as far as the White House is concerned, it’s divisive. Sanders added that previous reform bills that included protections for Dreamers failed in Congress, so this new effort is intended to be something new.

But that’s a terrible argument: recent attempts at immigration reform failed because far-right lawmakers weren’t willing to compromise. Ignoring DACA will make those Republicans happy, but it won’t move the process forward in any kind of constructive way.

Imagine you asked your boss for a raise. Then imagine she listened to your pitch, considered it, and replied, “I’ve decided giving you a raise is a ‘divisive’ point of contention, so let’s take that off the table and have negotiations.”

You’d probably react poorly, since from your perspective, the raise was the point of the negotiations.

And yet, that’s effectively what Team Trump is telling congressional Democrats with its new immigration plan.

Politico’s summary this morning rang true: “This thing is deader than a doornail. The White House keeps saying it’s supposed to be a conversation-starter. The only conversation this will start in the Capitol is one about how goofy it is to believe this plan was even released in the first place.”

Postscript: For what it’s worth, the White House’s plan envisions a civics test to measure “patriotic assimilation” and reward immigrants who are familiar with American history. The Washington Post reported, “One administration official offered an example in which green-card applicants would be required to pass an exam based on a reading of George Washington’s farewell address or Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.”

The latter is an odd choice: Jefferson’s 1802 letter the Danbury Baptist Association is a famous document because the Founding Father used the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” in it. It’s a metaphor the far-right has opposed for years.

Donald Trump, Immigration Policy, Immigration Reform and White House

Debate over Trump's new immigration plan is over before it starts