When Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times late last week, the president made his plans for protections for Dreamers quite clear. “Look, I wouldn’t do a DACA plan without a wall. Because we need it,” he said. “We see the drugs pouring into the country, we need the wall.”
On the latter point, every time Trump makes the argument that a giant border wall would stop drug trafficking, people like me explain why this plainly doesn’t make any substantive sense. He keeps repeating the line anyway,
But it’s the former point that stands out as especially interesting, at least as far as upcoming political debates go. Trump repeated the line on Twitter on Friday:
“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!”
Putting aside the president’s awkward grammar, what I think he’s hinting at is some kind of tradeoff: Dems agree to fund his giant border wall, and in exchange, he’ll endorse DADA protections for Dreamers.
The trouble is, Trump already reached a deal with Democrats on DACA – and whether he remembers it or not, this wasn’t what the parties agreed to.
Let’s revisit the details the president doesn’t appear to recall. In mid-September, Congress’ top two Democrats – Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi – issued a joint written statement that surprised much of political world, explaining that they’d reached an agreement with the president “to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
Soon after, Trump largely confirmed what the Democratic leaders said. In a pair of tweets, the Republican president wrote, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really! They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”
In comments to reporters the same day, Trump said the fight for a border wall would “come later.”
But when it came time to move forward on the agreement, Trump World changed its mind. In October, the White House sent Congress a list of demands the president expected to be met before he’d agree to protections for Dreamers, and near the top of the list was funding for his border wall – which had been explicitly excluded during his talks with Democratic leaders.
And now Trump is acting like the deal he struck in September never happened.
The funny thing is, after that agreement was announced, Trump received a round of positive press and his approval rating inched higher. As a result, the president had every incentive to follow through on the deal. It nevertheless now appears to be dead.