By Joe Guzzardi
Recently asked about what his approach to North Korea might be, President Trump replied: “You never know, do you? You never know.” The same hedge describes President Trump’s signature campaign issue, immigration. Candidate Trump promised to build a great wall and to end one of President Obama’s amnesties, deferred action for childhood arrivals, or DACA, as well as to cut or eliminate several American job-killing, employment-based visas, and to get mandatory employment authorization, E-Verify, passed.
Yet six months after his inauguration, President Trump has made little if any progress on those fronts. Instead, on DACA, more than 125,000 new work permits and renewals have been issued since the president’s inauguration. Worst of all, President Trump referred to what he called the real solution to immigration: comprehensive immigration reform. These are amnesty code words for legalizing, granting work authorization documents and eventually giving citizenship to about 12 million illegal immigrants.
Last week, traveling aboard Air Force One and commenting on the looming legal challenge to DACA that would end the program, President Trump told reporters that “What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”
When President Trump said that Congress and the country aren’t ready for amnesty, he’s only half right. The nation which elected President Trump on his immigration enforcement platform has for more than a decade successfully pressured Congress to reject various amnesty proposals. Back in their home districts, congressional representatives know that, among voters, amnesty is a toxic loser. But that doesn’t deter amnesty advocates, some of whom are key Republican players.
Let’s look at two high-ranking GOP officials who might convince President Trump that, if he truly wants it, amnesty may be within his reach. First, Vice President Mike Pence, when he was an Indiana Congressman, backed a convoluted plan that the cheap labor lobby endorsed which would allow corporations, using private sector labor contractors as intermediaries, to process as many visas to alien workers as employers deemed necessary, a total that could easily reach hundreds of thousands. Then, in 2013 as Indiana’s governor, Pence signed a bill that allowed some illegal immigrant college students to qualify for in-state tuition. Congress had previously voted down or refused to consider similar DREAM Act legislation multiple times. Promoting more unskilled worker visas, akin to the reviled H-2A and in-state university tuition for illegal immigrants are strike one and strike two against Pence as a true enforcement ally.
Second, powerful House Speaker Paul Ryan would also be a dependable amnesty collaborator, assuming President Trump wants to move forward. Abundant evidence points to Ryan’s amnesty support that dates back two decades to his efforts to defeat California’s Proposition 187 and includes his embrace of the 2013 Senate Gang of Eight bill that would have, over a ten-year span, imported about 50 million additional low-skilled guest workers during a jobless economic recovery.
Preventing an upheaval from President Trump’s voters are two realities: it’s relatively early in his administration, and enough high profile internal alien removals have occurred to appease, at least temporarily, the base.
Optimists may say about Pence and Ryan that was then, and this is now. But pro-immigration advocates rarely become enforcement converts, and President Trump’s insiders could provide the waffling president enough fodder to set up another nasty amnesty battle.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.