At a rally in Phoenix that served no real purpose last night, Donald Trump mentioned his idea for a border wall 17 times. In fact, the president appears convinced that this will happen. "We are building a wall on the southern border," the Republican said, adding, "Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.... We're going to have our wall. We're going to get our wall.... Believe me, one way or the other, we're going to get that wall."
The unpopular president's confidence, however, cannot create political will where none exists. But the White House apparently has a plan, which McClatchy reported on yesterday:
Donald Trump's top aides are pushing him to protect young people brought into the country illegally as children -- and then use the issue as a bargaining chip for a larger immigration deal -- despite the president's campaign vow to deport so-called Dreamers.
The White House officials want Trump to strike an ambitious deal with Congress that offers Dreamers protection in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, according to a half-dozen people familiar with situation, most involved with the negotiations.
At first blush, this may sound like the basis for a compromise. Democrats would get protections for young immigrants -- the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy -- while Republicans would get a border wall, cuts to legal immigration, the E-verify system, and detention facilities for undocumented immigrants, among other things.
Except, it's not really a trade-off in any meaningful sense, since Democrats have what they want: the DACA policy for young Dreamers already exists. Instead, it's more of a hostage strategy: Trump is saying he'll destroy DACA unless Congress approves all of the other goodies on his immigration wish list.
Trump's promises about Mexico paying for the wall are out. Trump looking for ways to force Congress to give him taxpayer dollars is in, even if he has to use hundreds of thousands of kids as leverage.
Is there any chance Democrats would go along with such a scheme?
That seems quite unlikely. The Huffington Post reported yesterday that congressional Dems have already ruled out the possibility.
"This is a nonstarter," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told HuffPost in a statement. Durbin is a lead advocate for legal status to young undocumented immigrants and a co-sponsor of the Dream Act to give them those protections, which the White House has said it would not back.
"The Dream Act is bipartisan" while the administration's immigration policy wish list "sharply divides" even the GOP, Durbin said. So agreeing to trade Dreamer protections for that wish list is "no kind of deal," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted that "Dreamers are not a bargaining chip for the border wall and inhumane deportation. Period."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) similarly tweeted that it was "reprehensible to treat children as bargaining chips," and that "Dreamers are not negotiable." Asked whether the plan could gain traction in the Senate and whether it is being discussed, a senior Democratic aide who requested anonymity said simply, "no and no."
The dispute will come to a head fairly quickly: current funding for the federal government runs out on Sept. 30, and Trump has said he expects money for his border wall to be included in the spending bill. Though he's said this before, the president has also said he's prepared to shut down the government over this issue (Trump made the same threat earlier in the year, though he was bluffing).
To get a spending bill through the Senate, the majority will need 60 votes. The idea that there will ever be 60 for a giant wall along the U.S./Mexico border is very hard to imagine.