The long knives are out for Stephen Miller.
Miller, the 32-year-old senior domestic policy adviser to President Trump, is said to be subverting the White House on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. His ninth grade classmates are quoted against him as authoritative character witnesses in the New York Times.
None of this is unprecedented, but the clock struck Miller time anew once the Trump administration released a set of immigration policy priorities that suggested it might not simply do whatever congressional Democrats want on DACA without seeking concessions elsewhere.
Trump in effect gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution for the young illegal immigrants, brought to the United States as minors, shielded from deportation by DACA. For those conversant in the subject, Miller has surpassed even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his former boss and the man who announced the DACA decision, as the public face of immigration restrictionism inside the administration.
The Daily Beast reports that Miller knows that others "have been banished to the doghouse by President Trump for assuming too large a public profile" and consequently "worries about being portrayed as the true master of Trump's immigration policy."
Plenty of Republicans and Democrats alike would like to see Miller go the way of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Their public and private comments about Miller's DACA "poison pills" carry an implied threat: That's a nice policy portfolio you have there, it would be a shame if something happened to it.
"Don't upstage the boss," advises a Republican operative.
It is, of course, worth noting that Trump himself has appeared with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., to endorse their bill curbing chain migration and lowering immigration levels overall, before announcing his intention to phase out DACA. Whatever Miller's role, the president gave his assent.
More importantly, Cotton and other leading immigration hawks have signaled they are willing to support something they consider "amnesty" for the first time since Ronald Reagan signed one into law without euphemism in 1986.
As long as they don't hold out for the enactment of the full restrictionist platform in exchange for legalizing DACA (which has its origins in a constitutionally problematic executive order), they are compromising more than the lawmakers in both parties who have so far offered few concessions they haven't already supported from the George W. Bush/John McCain/Ted Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform bid to the Gang of Eight.
The immigration hawks' seeming anti-amnesty absolutism is a product of the failure of the 1986 amnesty to reduce illegal immigration, itself stemming at least in part from the fact that the promised enforcement was weak or never materialized.
Now they are making an offer in exchange for something for the voters who cast ballots for Trump because they wanted a different approach to immigration. Strengthen provisions that make it less likely we will have to do this again in thirty years or less, they say, and we will help adjust the status of some of the hardest cases in immigration law.
Why not at least make a reasonable counteroffer?
"If we're gonna do something, we have to get something in return," Trump said of a DACA deal on Fox News Wednesday night. "And what I want is tremendous border regulation, I want the wall, and we're gonna get other things, and we're gonna see if we can work something out."
Anyone on Miller's side of the argument faces four risks. The first is that the constituency for his brand of immigration reform is inchoate and diffuse, unlike the political groups that prefer the Gang of Eight style, animated more by cries of "Build the wall!" than technical concerns about chain migration. The second is that they face bipartisan opposition. The third is that this opposition is eager to marginalize them as racists while some of their fellow travelers are complicit in their own marginalization on this front.
But it is the fourth risk that is behind the headlines now: anyone counting on Trump to deliver a consistent ideology has so far been let down.
Nevertheless, one veteran of immigration battles past offers a different set of advice than the aforementioned Republican operative.
"Remember that those screaming the loudest are not a majority of Americans, they are just the loudest because they have a sympathetic media to act as their megaphones," said former Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.