Does Trump Really Want “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”? What Does That Mean?
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In his fiery Grand Rapids MI rally tonight (March 28), President Donald J. Trump dwelt at length on the collapse of the southern border, perhaps in response to repeated chants of “Build The Wall!”—and, hopefully significantly, came up to but did not actually again repeat his recent calls for increased legal immigration because of the economic boom.

Trump should get out and do more rallies. His Washington entourage obviously want him to cave on immigration. But on tonight’s evidence, his base is telling him NO!

Thus, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, in multiple interviews this week, said Congress should focus on comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of the Mueller investigation.

Sekulow, a long-time Beltway immigration enthusiast, claims the president is all for this idea:

“Let’s focus on things for the American people. The president said he is in favor of comprehensive immigration reform—let’s get it,” Sekulow told Fox & Friends

[Mueller 'no collusion' finding reveals Trump was right all along: Jay Sekulow, by Robert Gearty, Fox News, March 25, 2019]

Trump has always been erratic on immigration. He talked about “comprehensive immigration reform” in the past. He considered introducing such a bill in his first months of office. [Trump says again that he's open to an immigration reform bill and may mention it in his speech to Congress, by Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2017]

But what could he mean by “comprehensive immigration reform” now? Pre-Trump, it meant Amnesty for all illegal immigrants plus a massive increase in legal immigration. Trump became the Republican nominee campaigning against that idea and has always insisted on his opposition to Amnesty. While Trump has occasionally suggested Amnesty for illegal aliens who came to the U.S. as minors—the so-called Dreamers—in exchange for patriotic immigration reform, he has never proposed legalization for the majority of illegals.

According to some Trump World figures, “comprehensive immigration reform” now means increasing legal immigration without Amnesty. That’s the impression left by a recent op-ed from David Bossie, who was (for a while) a top aide on the Trump 2016 campaign.  [An ‘America First’ immigration policy looks like this, Fox News, March 24, 2019]

Bossie asserts that an America First policy should “end the flood of illegal immigration”—while handing out more visas to high-skilled workers. Bossie defends his position by claiming mass immigration benefits the economy. But all of the studies Bossie relies on come from long-time immigration boosters, such as Trump’s chief economist Kevin Hassett:

As President Trump’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Kevin Hassett pointed out in a 2013 paper for the American Enterprise Institute, the United States could add half a percentage point to economic growth by doubling the number of immigrants [emphasis added] it lets into the country, especially if they come on employer-sponsored visas. President Trump’s chief economist continues to make the case that "for a country that has long thought of itself as a nation of immigrants, the U.S. falls far behind almost all the other countries in the number of immigrants it admitted relative to its population size.”

Throughout, Bossie argues there are not enough Americans for these high-skilled jobs. It appears he missed the Council of Economic Advisors’ report that said there are still too many American citizens out of work. [White House Economic Staffers Suggest No Need for More Immigrant Workers, by Neil Munro, Breitbart, March 19, 2019]

These comments by Sekulow and Bossie must disturb immigration patriots. But they should not be treated as the final word on Trump immigration plans. Neither of these men work in the administration, much less handle immigration policy. Bossie was an important figure in the Trump campaign in 2016, but sources tell The Watcher that the 2020 campaign has kept him at a distance. But Bossie’s column certainly reflects the President’s recent rhetoric on the issue.

Trump continues to lament the negative effects of illegal immigration and vows to curtail it. On Thursday, he actually tweeted that he may shut down the border due to the migrant surge:

Trump repeated this threat in his Grand Rapids speech. But he has made this threat numerous times before without action—making his “all talk and no action” ding at the Central American governments particularly ironic.

Still, it is good Trump shows that he wants to curb illegal immigration and not allow all of Latin America in. Trump’s Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is now finally set to ask Congress for the authority to deport unaccompanied minors detained at the border, detain illegal alien families, and make those requesting asylum to do so from their home countries in response to the border crisis. [DHS to ask Congress for sweeping authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children, by Julia Ainsley, NBC News, March 28, 2019]

The Trump administration is still fighting in court to enforce immigration law. His executive orders will bring billions of dollars for the wall. And, fortunately, the president appears to have forgotten about the Dreamers and shows no sign of wanting to legalize illegal aliens.

Nevertheless, at the same time, Trump seemed to be making a call to increase skilled immigration a part of his typical stump speech (which is why Grand Rapids was such a relief). His son-in-law Jared Kushner is still in talks with business interests and pro-Amnesty Conservatism Inc. groups to craft immigration legislation. That proposal will reportedly increase guest worker visas. What else it will do is unknown. It is set to be revealed in early summer. [Trump befuddles his allies with ambitious legislative agenda, by Andrew Restuccia, Heather Caygle and Anita Kumar, Politico, March 28, 2019]

While Trump waits to unveil his proposal, two terrible ideas have emerged from the Democrat-controlled House.

  • House Democrats released their new Dream Act earlier this month. It would give a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers and aliens covered by Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure--legalizing millions of foreign nationals.

But while this is expected to pass the House, Senate Republicans show no interest in it and will likely kill it in the upper chamber. [Why once-supportive Senate Republicans may sink House Dreamer bill, by Alan Gomez and Eliza Collins, USA Today, March 13, 2019]

  • Long-time immigration squish GOP New York Rep. Peter King (NumbersUSA rating F) and Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi (NumbersUSA rating F-), have drafted a “compromise” that would permanently legalize the same groups as the Democrats’ Dream Act. as well as relatives of Dreamers. In exchange for this mass Amnesty, Rep. King’s proposal asks for a mere $4.3 billion for wall infrastructure. But this sum would come from fees paid by the Amnestied illegals, which means America wouldn’t get this money for years.[A Grand Compromise on Immigration, by Peter King and Tom Suozzi, The New York Times, March 25, 2019]

It’s unlikely King’s bill will go anywhere, but it does show that some Republicans are still interested in Amnesty.

There is a possibility Trump will include Amnesty for Dreamers in his proposal, but it’s unclear at the moment. If he was considering this move, we would surely see him hint at it in his stump speeches. Trump hasn’t done so this far.

Kushner seems to support Amnesty, which does increase the chances Dreamer legalization would be included in the White House proposal. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has supported Amnesty in the past, but he appears more focused on healthcare right now. [Trump's decision on health care law puts spotlight on Mulvaney, by Peter Sullivan and Jordan Fabian, The Hill, March 28, 2019]

Which brings us to the good news. Trump and his Republican allies are apparently preparing to use the political capital from the Mueller Report to try their hand at healthcare again. Their attempt to repeal Obamacare in 2017 was a disaster and resulted in plummeting poll numbers. [Trump’s biggest midterm blunder: embracing Obamacare repeal, by Dylan Scott, Vox, November 7, 2018] There is no way Republicans can pass their own healthcare plan—a thing they don’t even really have—in a Democratic-controlled House. It’s incredibly stupid for Trump’s 2020 chances and will be a waste of his political capital.

But it may be a paradoxical gift to immigration patriots. If Trump and Republicans bog down in a fruitless fight over healthcare, it means they can’t push an immigration increase. Their political capital will be dissipated, and they will have to settle for gridlock.

It’s not ideal. But it’s better than a massive immigration increase.

Current events could also influence Trump to back off his comprehensive immigration reform and return to immigration patriotism. All it would take is one massive caravan to show up on Fox. Or another terrorist atrocity.

Trump may seem to have lost sight of his America First agenda at the moment. But no-one can say—not, not the immigration enthusiasts—that (especially if he does more rallies like Grand Rapids) he won’t rediscover it again.

Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.

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