Dreamers and Borders

Alan Zendell, January 25, 2018

The Trump White House offered what they described as a significant compromise on immigration today. On its face it looks like that’s true. It not only offers the three quarters of a million DACA kids a path to legal residence and citizenship, but it offers provisions that include another million such individuals.

In exchange it asks for a $25 billion trust fund for future border infrastructure and technology, some vague provisions that would enable the government to deport an unspecified number of presumably illegal immigrants, and an end to what they refer to as chain migration. That latter specifically would not apply to spouses or minor children.

It doesn’t specifically say that a border wall will be built, but we really don’t know the details yet. In principle it sounds like the centrist proposal the White House claims it is. Like any good centrist plan it will infuriate extreme factions on both the right and the left.

As he loves to do, Trump took everyone by surprise with this plan. The Alt-Right won’t like it because it might result in allowing almost two million people of various colors to become citizens – not exactly a recipe for white supremacy. And the “lefties” won’t like it because…I’m not entirely sure, specifically. They like to quote the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and they declare any tightening of immigration policy, especially the idea of letting people in based only on merit, as a violation of our basic principles.

As always, the devil will be in the details. It’s easy to generalize, but when the proposal is fleshed out it may look very different. Perhaps the biggest problem facing it is that Trump has publicly taken every possible stand on immigration during the last three years, some more than once. He loves to play bait and switch with Congress and the voters. He no doubt thinks of it as brilliant negotiating tactic, but for the majority of Americans, it only makes the credibility of everything he says suspect.

My overall dislike and distrust of Donald Trump aside, I consider myself centrist in most ways. The proof of that is that if I truly believed he was serious this time, and there were no serpents hiding beneath the generalities, I could support this proposal. For one thing, it does seem to align with what most Americans say they want – compassion and a fair deal for the “Dreamers” and better border security. I admit I’m nostalgic for the days when I could drive into Canada with only my credit cards and a driver’s license, but I have to be realistic. Those days are gone.

We don’t yet know what border security will ultimately look like, but the Idea of a $25 billion trust fund makes some kind of sense. And the words “infrastructure” and “technology” cover a lot of ground. Most security professionals believe our greatest vulnerability lies in cyberspace. An electronic shield that protected the country from hacking everything from our military installations to our voting booths might be defined as a border wall, and I can’t think of any objection to having a deep trough of money available for when it might be needed, not to mention all those high tech jobs it will pay for to employ all those dreamers; you know, the ones who’ve been at the head of their class for years?

The thing about creating a large trust fund is that it will be up to future Congresses and administrations to determine how it is used. If they use it well, it might be a very good thing. And if it actually works out that nearly two million vulnerable immigrants are given a meaningful path to citizenship, that definitely will be a very good thing.

As usual with Donald Trump, the issue comes down to trust. Can we believe him? And even if we do, attempting to broaden his base by adopting progressive ideas is a big risk. Will he do what he’s done repeatedly and change his mind when the more extreme among his supporters scream foul? Or will he show leadership and courage, and demonstrate that he really wants to unify the country?

I for one am willing to keep an open mind. I have no reason to trust the president, except that I’m an incurable optimist. There’s no rationale that makes me believe he wants to improve things based on his performance in 2017, but I’m willing to take the bait, and wait and see.

It’s not that I think Trump deserves another chance. There’s really no alternative except to behave as close-mindedly as the people I criticize.

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3 Responses to Dreamers and Borders

  1. schammer3@aol.com says:

    Although I agree with many of your observations on Trump you have to admit the economy is booming,Isis is on the run, that U.N. and the Palestinians have been called out, and North & South Korea are interacting all this and the fact that 90% of the news only says negative things about Trump. Granted he’s not presidential but he gets things done. A Hillary presidency would have been a disaster! Why can’t we just accept him and vote out him and the republicans if dissatisfied and just stop all the bashing.

    • alanpzendell says:

      I have no desire to bash our president no matter how I feel about him personally. But his lack of moral leadership and his disregard for truth and common decency set a dangerous example for our children and over time will undermine our basic institutions. Attacking the free press and the courts, and pandering to racism and bigotry will do far more harm over time than any good he may have done. With respect to your specific points:
      HILLARY: Neither you nor I nor anyone else has any idea what a Hillary presidency would have been like. That’s just nonsense. On the other hand, I wish Hillary would find a cave somewhere and hide in it.
      THE ECONOMY: The stock market is booming based on speculation and windfall profits from the new tax law. It remains to be seen whether there will be any long-term economic benefits that affect country at large. And worse, most financial advisers are warning their clients that if Trump’s other problems really hit the fan, the bottom will fall out. The declining unemployment rate is clearly an extension of the trend that began during the Obama years. There’s no demonstrable cause and effect between anything Trump has done and the unemployment rate, which in any case, is a questionable statistical measure that only looks at one segment of the problem. Have middle class wages improved? Has poverty been reduced? Do more people have access to health care at reasonable cost?
      ISIS: There is no clearer example of one administration benefiting from the policies of its predecessor than the rout of ISIS.
      THE UN: Admittedly, Nikki Haley put on an impressive show at the UN, but other than making the entire General Assembly gasp and looking tough, was anything substantive accomplished?
      ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Most observers believe that Trump’s solidarity with Netanyahu has seriously undermined progress toward a two-state settlement. I understand that many Americans love tough talk and many American Jews love Trump’s threats to the Palestinians, but I fail to see that any measurable good has come from them.
      KOREA: This is a tough one. I doubt that anyone except Kim Jong Un knows whether Trump’s inflammatory threats against him are responsible for the relative thaw in his relationship with the south, but I’d put my money on China letting him know they’re willing to strangle his economy if he doesn’t change his ways. There has to be a better way to avert nuclear war than using Twitter to engage in name-calling. And just today, South Korea issued a blistering retort to Trump’s new tariffs.

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