As published in the Immigration Daily on January 23, 2019
The art of the deal now is fixing the deal – to fold the present hand and start dealing a new one. The hounds are baying at him now on all sides, and he should know that it’s time for him to quit his present play if he wants to get the Wall. Mr. Trump created this whole fiasco when he put the livelihoods of 800,000 federal workers at risk in a long shutdown that he and the Republican Party own. And for what – a Wall projected to cost at least $24 billion of taxpayer money? A wall that will not stop drugs? A wall that can be tunneled under, dynamited, gone around through points of entry and the seas? To solve a humanitarian crisis of his own making when true concern would be multi-country conferences and agreements on solutions for the problems encouraging migration? To solve the “mass” invasion of the United States on the southern border when current statistics show arrests at almost an all-time low since the early 70’s? He has failed to convince the nation at large of the Wall’s necessity. So if he really continues to push for the Wall, he will have to ante up.
It goes without saying that Mr. Trump created the shutdown crisis in the hope that he could bowl over the Democrats before they established their agenda firmly in the House of Representatives. So the early stages of negotiation were to give nothing at all, pump up the absolute importance of the Wall as the penultimate solution against drugs, crime, illegal immigration, and terrorism, and attempt to shift shutdown blame on the Democrats, which was and is very hard to do as he initially said that he would own the shutdown. When that didn’t work, Mr. Trump then moved into the second phase of negotiation with his base and party (no direct negotiations with Democrats) offering temporary relief to 700,000 Dreamers and 300,000 holders of TPS (Temporary Protected Status). He offered what he could justifiably say to his base was actually nothing that these groups did not have before he took steps to remove their statuses. He would have to have been incredibly naïve not to realize that the offer was dead on arrival – so he should perhaps be given the benefit of the doubt that this offer was just his beginning point of negotiation although his base did not understand. To Democrats, he had taken these groups hostage in revoking DACA and TPS, and so he was only offering to put them back in the same state that they were before his actions. To his base, however, he was roundly criticized as an immigration appeaser and traitor.
Now it appears that Mr. Trump will be forced to move into the third phase of negotiation in which he will have to truly offer something to Democrats for the Wall or unilaterally end the shutdown with nothing to show for it except for the pain that he inflicted on the Nation. His negotiating hand of cards appears to have nothing in it. He is now being unanimously blamed for the shutdown, not the Democrats. Even members of his base are criticizing him for it at this point. His DACA and TPS hostages have largely escaped for now, with the Supreme Court yesterday giving notice that it would take no action on his request to review the DACA case, the upshot being that a decision is not expected until 2020. In addition, his revocation of TPS has been stayed by Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California in October, and there is no immediate threat to TPS members as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will likely support the injunction, and Mr. Trump would have to take the case to the Supreme Court. Even if there was a threat to TPS members, such would not likely move the Democrats and the country who largely view DACA members as more blameless and have twice as many members. In the art of the deal, he has lost leverage, and he more than anybody else should understand this.
It remains to be seen what Mr. Trump will offer in the third phase, but anything that he offers will be looked at warily by all sides based on his long history of going back on his word. Democrats are thus far united in their belief that any legislation ending the shutdown should not include funding for the Wall. That does not mean, however, that pressure cannot be exerted to change their minds if the right offer is made. Two bills will be put on the floor of the Senate tomorrow, January 25th, a Democratic one reopening the government without wall funding, and a Republican one reopening with wall funding, the above Trump proposals, and a poison pill on asylum. Both are widely expected to fail to obtain the necessary 60 votes. In this writer’s opinion, what would truly get the ball rolling would be an offer of permanent status with or without a road to citizenship for an expanded class of DACA members which is projected to be about 1.8 million individuals. Perhaps also worthy of heavy consideration might be the present 700,000 DACA members getting some form of permanent status with a road to citizenship and the 300,000 TPS members status relief for the next 3 years. The point is that for Mr. Trump to break the logjam and obtain the funding that he wants for the Wall, he has to put forth something new that is untainted by himself. This will cause huge howls from his impassioned base, but if he intends to do the deal, he needs to put something of substance on the table.