Trump’s DACA Move Drops the Mask. Who Will Notice?

Did Pres. Trump do the right thing in rescinding Pres. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for so-called “DREAMers” who arrived in the U.S. as children?  Sure; it had the same legal problems as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, already enjoined by the federal courts.

Did Trump want to do the right thing? No.

If Trump had wanted to do the right thing regarding DACA, he could have kept his promise to rescind it on Day One of his administration, instead of breaking it.  If Trump had wanted to do the right thing, he could have rescinded DACA on any of the days since, instead of waiting until just before the deadline given by state attorneys general for a threatened lawsuit like the one that effectively ended DAPA.

The only thing Trump wanted to do less than rescind DACA was defend it in court.  And so he finally acted, leaving the dirty work of a public announcement to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  That’s how excited Trump was about doing the right thing.

Trump has now handed the issue back to Congress, where it belongs.   As Sessions put it: “Congress should carefully and thoughtfully pursue the types of reforms that are right for the American people.”

But consider Trump’s own official statement:

The temporary implementation of DACA by the Obama Administration, after Congress repeatedly rejected this amnesty-first approach, also helped spur a humanitarian crisis – the massive surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America including, in some cases, young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country, such as MS-13.

Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities, a robust middle class, and economic fairness for all Americans.”

Sessions also stated that the administration’s policy already “will further economically the lives of millions who are struggling.”

These aren’t legal arguments.  These are arguments against a DREAMer amnesty.

If amnesties act as an incentive to more illegal immigration, humanitarian crises and economic harm to millions of Americans, why would Trump sign some bill granting an amnesty?  To be sure, Trump’s official statement only objects to “an amnesty-first approach” and he likely thinks whatever he gets from Congress will contain some sweeteners, like some version of the RAISE Act, or increased spending on enforcement.

Mind you, the GOP is unlikely to be able to get the RAISE Act through Congress over Democratic opposition.  And that there are other vehicles for getting more spending on enforcement.  Let’s set that aside for a moment.

Trump — if he actually cared about the issue — ought to be signaling that he would veto a bill with an amnesty.  He’s not doing that — and so far, he’s not given any indication of what he might sign, let alone any indication that he’s going to back any GOP effort in Congress, or support nervous Representatives who might face primaries over the issue.  He has no political strategy, despite the fact that the White House should know these would be issues arising from rescinding DACA.

In short, he’s flailing.  That’s what alpha males do.  No, wait, that’s not what alphas do; it’s what con men do when the con is exposed.

Trump didn’t run as the candidate of “amnesty if I get something.”  And how much that “something” really means to Trump ought to be measured by the fact that he’s only rescinding DACA because he didn’t want to lose a lawsuit brought to force him to keep a campaign promise on his signature issue.

DACA reveals Trump to be the blowhard con man so many warned about.  And it will reveal the partisan hackery of a swath of supposedly conservative commentators, who will pretend Trump’s Fall line is haute couture.  The so-called tough guys — with the possible exception of Breitbart — will go soft, if not downright flaccid.

The interesting question, however, is whether (or how) the DACA dance affects Trump’s support, if he winds up signing a compromise bill.  On the one hand, close to half of Trump voters say they have a restrictionist view on immigration.  And many of them believe the Trumpian rhetoric about a rigged system.

How do Trump’s core supporters react, then, if Trump himself signs an amnesty?  Do they recoil in disgust that Trump has become a swamp creature, part of the rigged game?

Not necessarily.  If the past couple of years have taught us anything, they have taught us the power of partisanship.  This will be the chance to shine for those who tell pollsters there’s nothing Trump could do that would cause them to disapprove… if they really mean it.  They could embrace some lazy rationalization about Trump acting as dealmaker, blaming Congress even if he signs their bill, etc.

If Congress manages to pass a bill, Trump will likely sign it.  The reaction will be a fascinating real-time experiment in political science.

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