Jules Witcover: The Dreamers’ approaching nightmare
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s promise to agree to the so-called Dreamers’ plea to avoid deportation has been resoundingly rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate, despite heavy support among voters of both parties as seen in a CBS News poll of more than 1,200 respondents last month.
The negative outcome Thursday mustered only 39 votes for the president’s plan after 90-minute debate on the Senate floor. The poll found that 87 percent of all Democrats and independents surveyed and 79 percent of all Republicans favored allowing the undocumented children of immigrants brought here as infants to remain. The deadline for starting to oust them is only two weeks away.
A compromise bipartisan proposal authored by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware offering legal status to the Dreamers was easily defeated. It also eventually would have provided billions in funding for Trump’s wall across the southern border, but it fell six votes short of the 60 required for passage. A total of 14 Republicans opposed the president to three Democrats who backed him.
Shortly before the vote, Trump tweeted that the compromise was a “total catastrophe,” to which Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer responded: “If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass.” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a hot-and-cold Trump supporter, offered: “I don’t think the president helped very much.”
Also in jeopardy now are two other immigration provisions that the Trump administration wants curbed or dropped. One provides for so-called chain immigration allowing certain family members to enter the country, and the other allows diversity according country in visa allocations.
But it is the dreamers’ lament over possible deportation, barred by the Obama-authored Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, that polls testify has captured the sympathies and consciences of millions of voters of both parties. Trump’s required linkage with his multi-million-dollar border wall priced variously between $18 billion and $25 billion remains a principal block to any acceptable compromise.
In the current atmosphere of wide compassion toward the dreamers at home, yet another mindless mass murder at an American school in Florida has added to growing dissatisfaction toward Trump’s lack of substantive response. His failure last week to offer anything more than predictable words of condolence to the victims’ families has been another source of complaint about his lack of leadership.
The president increasingly feeds the firestorm of discontent about him with what he says or fails to say about emerging issues, borne of his own glaring vulnerabilities as well as the issues themselves. The latest furor is over the disclosure that his recent senior White House staff aide, Rob Porter, was an accused wife-beater and was still kept on without full security clearance before finally being fired.
Inevitably, the news triggered a resurrection in an aggressive news media of the allegations against Trump in the whole provocative realm of sexual relationships, from the notorious “Access Hollywood” video in which he bragged about grabbing female genitals to reports of alleged hush money paid by proxy to a porn star.
The rapid development of the ?#MeToo movement of women speaking out against sexual harassment, as well as domestic violence and gender discrimination, has put a brighter spotlight on the president, who has hardly been a poster boy of rectitude in any of these respects.
With all this as a background, Donald Trump has an opportunity to seize the legitimate desires of the Dreamers and cast himself for once as a champion of a core American value – that our nation is a welcoming haven for the world’s huddled masses – instead of mean-spiritedly challenging it.
But that outcome would of course be contrary to reigning Republican Party policy to “let Trump be Trump” as the surest way to hold onto its majority control of both houses of Congress and maybe the White House too. That strategy may depend on what Robert Mueller eventually has to say about the president’s involvement if any in the Russian efforts to meddle in our elections, now back on the front burner in light of the latest revelations.
Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books.