JOHN BRUMMETT: Dreaming of a deal

Posted: January 28, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

There is a deal dimly in sight on the Dreamers and immigration.

There is a starting point for compromise and another actual compromise being negotiated by senators of both parties.

There is a fallback interim deal if none of that works. It would be an unpleasant outcome, but that's why it's the fallback position.

And there's even an escape hatch if all else fails.

So, I'm going to say something now that will require your being seated.

It's that this preposterous second-place president--he of the atrocious and culturally debasing behavior and uninformed blather--has wound up at a credible place in the Dreamer immigration brouhaha.

Credible is not righteous. It's merely credible. I don't agree with the policy substance of the White House position; it's mean. But many Republicans are mean on immigration, and, anyway, conventional wisdom is that you start negotiations seeking more than what you really intend or expect to get.

A few relatively conventional things happened Wednesday and Thursday.

Trump barged into a briefing for reporters to say that he could support not merely legalization of the Dreamers' continued presence in the country, but a path to citizenship for them.

That was new and generous.

The Dreamers are those brought into the country as children by undocumented parents, educated here and behaving acceptably. Barack Obama gave them status to remain here by an executive order when Republicans refused, of course, to cooperate with him on legislation. Trump nullified the executive order, because it was Obama's and maybe as part of a master plan.

For a day, it appeared that Trump's pronouncement might have been merely another case of uninformed blowhard nonsense that had nothing to do with what the real Republican brains on immigration--Our Boy Tom Cotton, Stephen Miller, White House chief of staff John Kelly--were up to.

But then the Washington Post reported on some of the details of a proactive settlement proposal that the White House intended to roll out Monday.

A path to citizenship for Dreamers was in it. Something Trump had signaled had turned out to be valid, not madman rambling.

Trump's White House was extending a progressive offer to the Democrats--something beyond what had been on the table previously--in exchange for every right-wing immigration position in sight:

• Border-wall funding of some negotiable amount for some negotiable period.

• Severe restrictions in the practice of family migration by which Dreamers and others get to bring family members into the country.

• Ending or scaling back a diversity lottery by which people usually from desolate countries--bleepholes, some say--put their names in a hopper to be chosen to come to America if they can pass strenuous screening.

I don't want the diversity lottery eliminated in favor of a system targeting immigrants who bring money and skills. I believe that would erode America's vital moral eminence in the world, indeed its ideal.

I don't like deporting the Dreamers' parents, as the White House proposal provides, because families should be together, and parents eventually need caring for.

I don't like that the Dreamers have been taken hostage in the first place. They deserve legal status without conditions.

But they are where they are.

The White House offers Democrats one thing both sides want and reserves three things only conservatives want. A 2-1 win for Republicans ought to be enough. Let the parents in and lose the lottery, maybe.

Some liberals called the proposal wholly out of the question because of the broad restrictions on immigration. Democratic senators who are worried about offending a key element of their identity-politics coalition will cower.

Some conservatives called the proposal wholly out of the question because the pathway to citizenship gave too much to the Dreamers. "Amnesty Don," ridiculed Breitbart News.

Knees jerking like that on the political fringes mean we're getting somewhere.

Simultaneously, center-inclined senators of both parties--Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Joe Manchin and others, who got the government reopened--continued working on their own center-out proposal.

Between Trump's right-wing framework and senators working from the center, government might occur.

If not, the fallback position is that the Dreamers could stay only for a year if the Democrats insisted on only one year of funding for the border wall. It'd be yet another woeful punt, but fallbacks wouldn't be fallbacks if they were desired.

The escape hatch is that, failing any agreement, Trump has the authority to postpone any enforcement against the Dreamers--an authority he doesn't want to exercise, but surely would.

Trump does not want stories on the evening news about sobbing Dreamers run out of the only country they've ever known, and for no fault of their own.

There's one other idea: If nothing else makes its way through the political maze, Trump could always put back Obama's executive order.

Now who's a dreamer?

------------v------------

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 01/28/2018