During President Trump’s State of the Union address, he laid out four pillars he felt were necessary to a compromise on immigration.
“The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age….The second pillar fully secures the border.… The third pillar ends the visa lottery -- a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people.… The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration,” said the President in the House of Representatives. The President’s plan for DACA citizenship would be a twelve year plan requiring education, work, or military service without conviction of crimes during that time.
Many of the President’s most ardent supports vocally support the second, third, and fourth pillars of his plan, but they equally oppose his first. Some of his supporters have taken to calling the President “Amnesty Don.” There are actually real and serious public policy concerns for deporting all illegal immigrants, including DACA recipients, that have nothing to do with race. Democrats want to treat any such policy proposal as racist and they do so to their detriment and the detriment of any serious discussion on the issue.
There are also a lot of people who refuse to budge on the issue of mass deportation because of their concerns about law and order. That is fair, but this is a political discussion and political compromises will be had. The majority of the country supports giving DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship. As such, some in the White House who adamantly oppose giving DACA recipients citizenship have decided to embrace a pathway for the 1.8 million proposed by President Trump. It is purely for practical reasons those opposed should at least try to understand.
First, who are the DACA recipients? They are the children of illegal aliens who were brought here by their parents. Many of them have been here from such a young age that they have little memory of their native countries. According to Pew Research Center from September of last year, 79.4% of DACA recipients come from Mexico. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru round out the top five. South Korea is at six. The Philippines and India are in the top fifteen. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area has the largest number of DACA recipients, followed by the New York City-Newark-Jersey City area. Metropolitan areas around Dallas, Houston, and Chicago round out the top five. Half of DACA recipients live in California and Texas. They are mostly women, mostly single, and mostly between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five.
So why would the Trump administration officials who oppose giving these people citizenship suddenly support it? Put simply, it will deprive Democrats of their most compelling narrative for citizenship. According to repeated surveys by multiple pollsters, at least 65% of President Trump’s own supporters support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. While you may not support it, disabuse yourself of the idea that you are in the majority even if you think you are right.
The problem for Democrats is that outside of the DACA recipients, public support for citizenship goes downhill. While many Americans would be willing to give legal residency to the parents of DACA recipients, there is no clear majority willing to give them citizenship. Republicans are calculating that if they give DACA recipients citizenship, they will have deprived Democrats of their most photogenic playing card in the immigration debate. As long as DACA recipients are hostages to to debate, Democrats have the upper hand pushing for mass citizenship.
Democrats know this too. That is why Democrats are pushing for a total citizenship package beyond DACA recipients. They know if Donald Trump is successful, he will have deprived them of their most compelling argument for mass citizenship. The GOP will not control all of Washington forever. If Republicans take the DACA card off the table while they can, they will make it harder for Democrats to pass a blanket amnesty later.