The Slatest

The Trump Administration Is Trying Everything in Its Power to Kill the Senate Immigration Deal

The moderates behind the Senate's immigration deal.
The moderates behind the Senate’s immigration deal.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of centrist senators has struck an immigration deal, and the Trump administration wants desperately to kill it.

The administration’s first missive against the moderates’ deal, which would devote $25 billion towards border security (including a wall), create a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and bar Dreamers from sponsoring their parents, came on Thursday morning in a Department of Homeland Security press release that’s Breitbart-level in its hysteria.

The bill “would be the end of immigration enforcement in America and only serve to draw millions more illegal aliens with no way to remove them,” according to this actual statement from the executive branch. It adds that the bill would “effectively make the United States a Sanctuary Nation where ignoring the rule of law is encouraged.”

The root of the mania is a provision at the end of the bill directing the secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize immigration enforcement against certain categories of undocumented immigrants. They include criminals, those who pose a threat to national security or public safety, and those who “are unlawfully present in the United States; and arrived in the United States after June 30, 2018.” In the text, that date is written by hand in the margin, while an original date, Jan. 1, 2018, is crossed out.

For DHS, this change was the cue to get crazy.

The bill “eviscerates the authority of DHS to arrest, detain, and remove the vast majority of aliens illegally in the country by attempting to limit DHS enforcement by codifying a ‘priorities’ scheme,” the statement reads, “that ensures that DHS can only remove criminal aliens, national security threats and those who arrive AFTER June 30, 2018 creating a massive surge at the border for the next four months.” The enforcement “holiday” as DHS calls it, “will show to the world we are not serious about enforcing our immigration laws as those who arrive here can just stay here consequence free, at a minimum until the next amnesty.”

Ugh. The language says straightforwardly that these categories should be the first priority, “not the only priority,” as Maine Sen. Susan Collins told reporters in a press conference Thursday. It is odd that DHS is complaining about language instructing it to prioritize enforcement of criminals first; it shouldn’t really need to be told that. And if conservatives are concerned about stopping further illegal immigration, they should be pleased with language that also instructs it to prioritize deportation of those who come from now on. Collins did say, though, that because of the outrage, they would revert the date back to Jan. 1. That will kill the “holiday” talking point, and we can all be sure that good-faith immigration cranks everywhere will stop using it.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was livid over the DHS statement, noted during the press conference that it was penned by a former aide to retired Rep. Tom Tancredo, Congress’ go-to immigration restrictionist of the previous decade.

Speaking of restrictionists, the White House released its own statement opposing the deal later. The White House statement, which threatened a veto, said that the bill would undercut “existing immigration law.”

“Specifically,” it reads, “preventing enforcement with respect to people who entered our country illegally before a date that is in the future would produce a flood of new illegal immigration in the coming months.”

Well, specifically, that’s been changed now. But don’t expect the White House to change its position. Conservatives want to prevent this bill from reaching 60 votes, so that when its preferred bill, authored by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, comes up last in the flurry of votes, they can try to pressure enough Democrats into accepting it as the last hope for a Dreamer resolution. If that’s the case, Democrats would, and should, accept nothing. Republican senators behind the compromise legislation hope that the administration’s scare tactics are just a negotiating ploy, and that if the compromise gets 60 votes and passes the Senate, the White House might change its posture. Maybe? Or maybe the White House just doesn’t want a deal, and Democrats should make the president own the mess he’s created.