Last week President Trump proposed terms for a deal on DACA. Days later Trump reiterated his plan in his State of the Union address, calling it a “great deal” for Democrats. It is, but for America, I am sad to say that it is one of the worst deals in the history of deals—maybe ever.
CNBC accurately describes Trump’s proposal as a “dream come true” for Democrats. Not only does it give them the moon and stars, but it gives no real immediate, nor permanent concessions to the Republicans—the deal is asymmetrical, dangerous.
Trump’s proposal will give a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million people—up from 800,000 in his October proposal—and allow them to sponsor their spouses and children for green cards. In exchange, Democrats will agree to scrap the visa “diversity lottery,” end chain migration, and provide $25 billion for the border wall. While it may look like a decent deal, there are a few critical caveats.
To start, the prohibition on chain migration will not be retroactive. This means that the 4 million family members who already applied for green cards would be processed and admitted into America over the next decade. Thus, President Trump will be out of office before we see the end of chain migration, and there’s no guarantee that the next administration could not simply reinstate it—we may trade amnesty for nothing.
The Democrat’s other main concession is funding for border security and a wall. Again, the problem is that funding for border security is temporary, and could easily be ended once Trump leaves office. And although the wall is permanent and will likely be effective, the question remains whether a $25 billion wall is worth 1.8 million new citizens. I’d say probably not.
Frankly, $25 billion is a drop in the federal budget: America spends $150 billion annually garrisoning rich foreign countries like Germany and Belgium, and nearly $50 billion on foreign aid. Likewise, we’ve spent over $250 million on foreign wars every single day since 2001. Finding money in Washington isn’t hard if you know where to look. Trump should look a little harder.
Why it’s Virtuous to Die on DACA Hill
There are three main reasons why Trump should make DACA his “hill to die on.”
First, Trump’s proposed DACA amnesty will create an enormous incentive for people to enter America illegally. It broadcasts a clear signal: beat the border patrol in a game of “red rover” and we will eventually let you stay. Amnesty is not the solution: it’s the problem. It transforms America into a giant lure for the world’s poor, and an irresistible magnet for human traffickers.
The evidence for this is overwhelming: after President Obama (illegally) signed DACA there was an unprecedented spike in youth migration into the United States. Also consider how the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to 2.7 million aliens, kicked off the greatest tidal wave of illegal immigration in American history. At the time, President Reagan said amnesty would be a permanent solution, and yet at least 20 million illegals entered America since, according to a new study from Yale University. Compare this to the approach that President Eisenhower took when he deported nearly 3 million illegal migrants after the War: very few came for over thirty years, until the political climate turned. Incentives matter.
The second reason is political. It’s no secret that the Democratic Party lost the war of ideas decades ago—now it depends almost wholly upon immigrant voters to survive. In fact, a report from the Center for Immigration Studies shows that immigrants vote Democrat by a ratio of at least 2:1, and that the gap is widening.
This has major political consequences—especially since there are now more than 45 million immigrants living in America—an all-time high. Remember, the last presidential election Democrats won without immigrant voters was that of Lyndon B. Johnson back in 1964 (excluding Ross Perot’s vote-splitting antics in 1992). Democrats need immigration. It is a matter of political survivor. This has important ramifications for the debate at hand.
A DACA amnesty will give the Democrats nearly 2 million new voters, conveniently concentrated in a few states. This will tip elections in their favor, opening the door to further amnesties, and greater immigration. Had DACA recipients been able to vote in the last presidential election, Hillary Clinton would have likely won both Florida and Arizona—and therefore the presidency. Granting amnesty is a fatal strategic mistake for the Republican Party, and will be the death-knell for conservative presidential aspirations.
Finally, amnesty unceremoniously puts illegals before citizens. Not only is illegal immigration is bad for America’s economy, but there is the problem of opportunity costs, ie. every dollar spent helping illegals is a dollar not spent on American citizens. According to a recent study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, American taxpayers spend over $135 billion on welfare for illegal aliens annually. Meanwhile, there are some 500,000 American citizens who are chronically homeless—of these, 49,933 are US military veterans. Even worse, according to Covenant House some 2 million American children experience a spell of homelessness every single year.
These are American citizens, some who fought and bled for our country, and yet we let them rot on the streets while we provide generous welfare for illegal immigrants. President Trump says he wants to put America first, and yet his proposed DACA deal does the opposite.
What to do About DACA?
The solution to DACA is not necessarily a binary choice: either amnesty or deportation. We have other options. For example, Congress could give permanent residency status to all DACA recipients, as opposed to a pathway to citizenship. If said resident wanted citizenship status, they would need to go through the same legal process as every other immigrant.
Or perhaps the solution is simply to get a better deal: offer a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in exchange for increased border security and the RAISE Act—and stipulate that it takes effect immediately and retroactively. This would not only cut immigration levels in half, but would clear the backlog of 4 million non-economic immigrants.
Either way, President Trump’s current proposal goes against America’s interests, and must be scuttled at all costs.