On Tuesday, a reportedly deeply conflicted President Trump is expected to send Attorney General Jeff Sessions out to announce an end to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for some 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, but give Congress six months to come up with a solution before Trump's action takes effect. Nothing is final until Trump gives the word, however, the White House emphasized. Killing DACA would fulfill a campaign promise but appear to violate Trump's presidential pledge to treat DREAMers with "heart" and give them no cause for alarm.
Over the weekend, an "exasperated" Trump asked his aides for "a way out" of this DACA dilemma, two people familiar with the exchange told The New York Times. But the six-month compromise crafted by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will please nobody. Here are three reasons ending DACA is bad politics for Trump.
1. Unlike some other immigration issues, allowing DREAMers to stay has broad support, even among Republicans. These aren't Trump's gang-banging "bad hombres," they're college students, tax-paying young professionals, members of the U.S. armed forces, and people who die trying to save fellow Houstonians from floodwaters.
2. Trump's relationship with congressional Republicans is already strained enough without Trump throwing what one official describes to the Times as "an unpinned hand grenade at Capitol Hill Republicans." Moderate and several conservative Republicans, plus all Democrats, support extending residency if not a path to citizenship to DREAMers, but the devil is in the details, and Congress already has fragile debt-ceiling negotiations, spending bills, and hurricane relief to pass this fall, not to mention tackling the GOP wish list of tax cuts.
3. Trump is already "cornered, weakened," and isolated, and now he's frittering away his remaining power by "shooting the hostages," Ben Smith writes at BuzzFeed News. Instead of holding the Obama-era "hostages" — the Paris climate accord, TPP trade deal, Iran nuclear deal, and DACA — for political leverage, he's choosing attention-grabbing terminating over power. "Now, if Trump kills DACA to please his base he'll be getting the worst of both political worlds," Smith argues. "He'll inflict real pain on hundreds of thousands of people to reassure his 30-some percent that he's with them. And politically speaking, he'll have given up a bargaining chip for nothing, and spent away a bit more of his political capital. That's not strategy, it's a panicked move in a corner."