What do you get when you cross people burning their “Make America Great Again” hats with accusations of racism?
Answer: the initial reaction to President Trump’s immigration framework, unveiled this week with more details to come on Monday.
From #MAGA to #TheResistance, the first takes on the Trump immigration plan were hot and largely unfavorable, though that trend was markedly less pronounced among Republicans who actually have a vote in Congress.
It’s not the first time Trump has taken shots from both sides of this contentious debate, only to see cooler heads prevail. But the deal the president is trying to strike is an exchange of legal status for illegal immigrants eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — one including a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people — in exchange for eventual reductions in legal immigration by limiting family reunification and phasing out the visa lottery system.
In theory, those most concerned about the DACA recipients should accept the first part of Trump’s offer while the immigration hawks who helped elect him president should be satisfied with the second part.
But what if it winds up being the other way around?
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Trump as asking Congress to “tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hardliners have advocated for years” in exchange for a DACA fix.
"The White House claims to be compromising because the President now agrees with the overwhelming majority of Americans that Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship," said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in a statement. "But his plan would put the administration's entire hardline immigration agenda — including massive cuts to legal immigration — on the backs of these young people."
As put off as Democrats were by the changes to legal immigration, immigration hawks were similarly unhappy with the size and scope of the Dreamer amnesty.
“First, the framework audaciously grants amnesty to 1.8 million illegal aliens — 1.1 million more than anyone interested in addressing the status of DACA recipients ever imagined,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, in a statement. “By any definition, these numbers expose this framework as a massive amnesty vehicle, not a reasonable DACA compromise.”
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tweeted that undocumented immigrants have “ALL” violated our laws, presumably including those brought here illegally as minors, and have “No Right” to be here. King suggested Trump’s opening bid not be amnesty but finding out how many illegal immigrants the Democrats would be willing to deport.
The early reviews were not all bad, including from Senate Republicans with disparate immigration policy views.
“The president’s framework is generous and humane, while also being responsible,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a leading immigration hawk. “It protects those eligible for DACA, who are here through no fault of their own. But it also will prevent us from ending up back here in five years by securing the border and putting an end to extended-family chain migration.”
"It is encouraging to see the President embrace some of the ideas I have long supported,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Gang of Eight. “I look forward to reviewing the specific legislative text once it is presented.”
Rubio, who has been taking heat from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — still smarting from their 2016 Republican presidential primary competition — warned that a bill that tried to do too much would likely fail.
Doing less would probably mean jettisoning the immigration reforms that could make some conservatives vote for even a limited amnesty.
Those conservatives would in many cases like to see the changes to family immigration and the diversity visa lottery happen much faster, preferably at the same time as legalization, but that could make Democratic votes — essential in the Senate, where even a unified GOP caucus is nine votes short of breaking a filibuster on its own — even harder to find.
For Trump and his allies, it will be a dilemma similar to that which thwarted Republicans on Obamacare last year. Changes that win over one group of lawmakers will repel another, making compromise difficult.
As with Obamacare, Trump is being pulled in both directions.
One key difference: Trump is ending DACA, an executive action by President Barack Obama to shield from deportation certain immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, effective March 5. That sets a deadline for all sides.
The Democrats have imposed an earlier deadline due to the fact some DACA beneficiaries are already losing their protections. If no deal is reached by Feb. 8, there will be another government shutdown.
Democrats believe they are better positioned to win the second shutdown fight, in part because the onus will be on Trump and the Republicans to do something about DACA.
Yet the last shutdown did not produce a clear-cut PR victory for the Democrats and made red-state Democratic senators — including some of the ten seeking re-election this year in states Trump carried in 2016 — nervous.
Polls showed a lack of enthusiasm for an immigration-driven shutdown, despite public support for DACA.
If there is a deal to be made, it might be between Republicans and these less liberal Democrats.
Until then, Trump’s immigration tug-of-war continues.