President Trump offered Democrats a new deal to reopen the government this weekend. The main components would see the president get nearly $8.7 billion for the wall and immigration enforcement and Democrats in Congress get to temporarily reverse his decisions to end legal protections for immigrants with DACA and Temporary Protective Status (TPS). Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have already rejected the offer, and while it is unlikely to pass the Senate and even less likely to pass in the House, the Senate will vote on his proposal anyway this week.
Based on Trump’s comments on Saturday and the White House outline, the legislation would:
- extend status for three years for a million immigrants already in DACA and TPS (mainly immigrants stranded in the United States after earthquakes in El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti);
- spend $5.7 billion to construct as much as 234 miles of massive border barriers at a cost of $24.4 million per mile;
- spend another $2.95 billion to:
- inspect for drugs at ports of entry;
- hire 75 deportation judges to speed up the currently slow deportation process;
- employ 2,750 more Border Patrol and “law enforcement” agents (i.e. deportation ICE agents); and
- fund medical inspections and “temporary housing” (i.e. detention of migrants);
- change immigration law to allow immediate deportations of children from Central America; and
- provide a very limited pathway to apply for status in their home countries.
It’s not a fair deal, as Trump can spend the rest of his life basking in the shadow of his vanity project, but the immigrants get only a 3-year reprieve from the de facto deportation orders that Trump himself issued when he canceled their statuses. A permanent status is the only fair trade for a permanent wall.
Moreover, President Trump’s annual price for letting the immigrants remain is about $2.9 billion ($8.7 billion/3 years), placing the price of lifetime protections at about $190 billion ($2.9 billion times 65 years). DACA and TPS recipients represent less than 10 percent of the entire illegal immigrant population. If Democrats give Trump his price for these immigrants, they would be accepting a valuation of permanent legalization for all illegal immigrants of about $2 trillion. And that is without any pathway to citizenship, more deportations, and fewer protections for children at the border.
Trump’s deal might be his best official offer yet, as it drops his demands for cuts to legal immigration, but it is so far from anything reasonable or politically feasible that it seems like it is more a product of negotiations within the White House—between Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, and Stephen Miller—than between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.