Takeaways from President Trump’s January 9 meeting with Congress on deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), are in the beholders’ eyes. At different times during the televised sit-down, the president made what appear to have been conflicting statements which left some observers concluding that the two sides are stalemated.
Occasionally, the president doubled down on his demand that a DACA bill end chain migration, torpedo the visa lottery program, and include his promised Southwest border wall. But at other times, President Trump insisted that DACA would “get done,” that he would “sign it,” and that comprehensive immigration reform, amnesty, would soon follow. When California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the president if he would agree to a clean DACA bill now, and shelve enforcement and chain migration discussions until later, President Trump’s response: “Yeah, I’d like to do it.”
Unemployed and under-employed Americans who watched came away bewildered and unsettled. If the president signs a “clean” bill, 800,000 DACAs will have their employment authorization privileges extended, receive lawful residency, and will eventually petition their non-nuclear family members who will also get work permits. During the last 35 years, from the 33 million legal immigrants admitted, about 20 million or 61 percent were part of the chain, and became work eligible. Coincidentally, during roughly the same 35 year period while the labor pool expanded, inflation-adjusted U.S. wages have been flat or have declined.
Moreover, State Department data shows that as of November 2016, about four million people sponsored by a U.S. resident relative are on the family-based visa waiting list, chain migration applicants. Their wait ranges from two to more than twenty years depending on family category and country of origin. Nevertheless, those on the State Department’s list represent a future labor market expansion that will occur during an era when automation is rapidly eliminating the need for human capital. The status quo chain migration math hurts working Americans: too many new workers and not enough job creation to keep up with population growth
The DACA drama is playing out against the government spending bill’s January 19 deadline, and the program’s March 5 expiration date. Pressure is on Congress to act. Going into the 2018 mid-terms, polling among likely voters in crucial swing states shows overwhelming opposition to chain migration and the visa lottery which could be a crucial variable in the ongoing congressional negotiations.
History, however, proves that the “clean” DACA deal that Feinstein covets is unlikely to lead to enforcement. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty but failed to deliver the promised worksite enforcement provisions included in the bill that would have helped reduce cheap labor.
Shortly after the White House meeting adjourned, both sides reacted. A California federal judge issued a nationwide injunction that ordered the Trump administration to restart DACA. Meanwhile, back in D.C., the four members of the House GOP leadership team introduced the Securing America’s Future Act that would grant DACAs amnesty in exchange for ending chain migration, the visa lottery and mandating E-Verify.
As of today, on DACA, the swamp is up to its knees in alligators.