On Tuesday, January 9, President Trump and lawmakers from both parties met in the White House to discuss immigration in general, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama era legacy, in particular.

DACA was an executive program (never mandated by a statute) that allowed some protection from deportation for individuals, of up to 31 years of age, who had first arrived in the U.S. illegally, at the age of 15 or younger, and who had lived a crime-free life since. In return for an application fee and documentation establishing that an applicant meets the requirements of the program, that individual was to receive a renewable two-year deferral of deportation.

The policy was rescinded by the Trump administration in September 2017. Whether that rescission is itself lawful is a matter now in litigation.

But assuming its legality, rescission would leave the question: what happens to the individuals who had in good faith responded to the offer, provided information about themselves, and who have been living openly in the U.S. in reliance on the earlier executive order? They have now created a paper trial of their whereabouts whereas previously there may not have been one. Thus, they may have made themselves a lot easier to deport, were the administration of a mind to do so.

Right Wing View

The Tuesday meeting, or a 50-minute portion of it, took place as the cameras rolled and the live mikes picked up the exchanges.  Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) addressed the President directly, asking, “What about a clean DACA bill now with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure” in a second stage? By “clean” bill she presumably meant a bill that would extend DACA and offer re-assurance to those whose status was already dependent thereon, but that kept itself clear of other related issues, the meat of the subsequent stage of deliberations.

Trump replied that he had “no problem” with that, “We’re going to come up with DACA, and then we could start immediately on phase two, which would be comprehensive.”

The Republicans in the room were likely aghast at this. It seemed as if their President had just given up their leverage. If they allowed for a ‘clean’ DACA phase one, they’d have much less to offer Democrats, or Republicans less than thrilled to toe the party line, in phase two.

Indeed, the House Majority Leader figured the President might need some help walking that back. So he said: “Mr. President, I think you need to be clear here,” that border security too would have to go in the phase one bill.

“I think that’s what she’s saying,” Trump said.

But it wasn’t. Feinstein clarified that she wanted border security issues in phase two. Clean means clean. She wanted DACA clean.

Left Wing View

At this point the scorecard may look scribbled upon. The President believes that deciding who to keep in and who to keep out is critical to national sovereignty. Thus, the appeal of a physical barrier, the much-discussed “wall,” which Mexico seems surprisingly less than eager to pay for.

The left wing view, at least in this context, is that undocumented workers are oppressed, and will be to some extent liberated if they can come out of the shadows, if their status is regularized. The left is opposed to the wall and in favor of something akin to amnesty for workers already here.

The Natural Deal

One natural trade, then, between center left and center right is: build the wall and in general strengthen border security to prevent any further illegals from entering and getting themselves oppressed by unscrupulous employers – but continue the temporary deferment and in time give permanent lawful status for those who are already here, especially to those who got here through no fault of their own.  That is the natural trade, but there is no guarantee that anything like that will come about.

In Part II of this discussion, we’ll discuss the reactions of all parties on social media to that on-camera chat and the continued uncertainties.