Alex Brandon/AP

Trump’s ‘Major’ Border Deal Is No Deal for Democrats

The president offered three-year protection for “Dreamers” and immigrants with protective status in exchange for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding. Democrats rejected it out of hand.

The 29th day of the partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, has been virtually indistinguishable from the first.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump entered the Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House to reveal the “major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border” he had teased on Twitter on Friday. In some respects, it could be viewed as a major step toward ending the shutdown, with Trump outlining a new proposal to break a logjam that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay. And yet in other ways—with Democratic leaders roundly rejecting the plan before it was even aired—it may as well have never happened.

The White House proposed three years of protection for two categories of immigrants. The first group comprises about 700,000 young adults, known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States as children without authorization; they had been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era policy that Trump sought to end before federal courts intervened. The second category, temporary protected status, covers people who were allowed to move to the United States after disasters hit their home country; Trump has similarly sought to cut back these protections, only to see his actions stopped in court.

In addition to three years of protection for Dreamers and TPS recipients, Trump also proposed $800 million for humanitarian assistance, presumably to the Central American countries where poverty and violence push migrants to leave for the United States; $805 million for drug-detection technology at the border; an additional 2,750 Border Patrol and law-enforcement agents; 75 new immigration-judge teams to reduce the backlog of nearly 1 million cases; and a system for Central American minors to apply for asylum from their home country.

And perhaps most important, the White House’s offer includes $5.7 billion for the “strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall”—the price tag that in many ways catalyzed the current impasse.

“This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea,” Trump said. “These are steel barriers in high-priority locations,” covering about another 230 miles of the southern border.

Trump cast his proposal as a medium-term stopgap that buys time for Congress to negotiate a full-scale immigration-reform package, the sort of compromise that has eluded lawmakers for more than a decade. (In February, Democrats offered $25 billion for wall funding in return for a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, but the deal crumbled when Trump insisted upon further cuts to legal immigration.) A source familiar with the ongoing negotiations said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have the latest White House proposal ready for a floor vote by next week.

But a proposal that offers only temporary protections for daca and TPS recipients—without a path to citizenship—has historically been viewed as a nonstarter by most Democrats, in part because it was Trump himself who has tried to revoke protections for both groups. And sure enough, as details of the president’s offer leaked out ahead of his address on Saturday, Democrats were quick to pour cold water on it. “Initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement before Trump’s remarks. “For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports.”

“It’s clear the President realizes that by closing the government and hurting so many American workers and their families, he has put himself and the country in an untenable position,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement following the president’s address. “Unfortunately, he keeps putting forward one-sided and ineffective remedies. There’s only way out: open up the government, Mr. President, and then Democrats and Republicans can have a civil discussion and come up with bipartisan solutions.”

Trump’s offer changes nothing, Democrats concluded. They remained firm in their demand that the president first reopen the government before entertaining further talks on immigration policy. “His ‘major announcement’ was just the exact same racist demand for a wall,” said one House aide, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. “Let his legacy be two more years of closed government if he won’t be reasonable.”

But Republicans were nonplussed by Democrats’ swift refusal. According to multiple GOP lawmakers and aides, party leaders are newly confident that blame for the shutdown—which polling thus far has shown sits mostly with the president—will shift to Democratic leaders. The way Republicans see it, the White House is attempting to engage in good-faith negotiations with a party whose members still refuse to come to the table (quite literally, they point out, reiterating that moderate House Democrats all rebuffed Trump’s lunch invitation to discuss the shutdown last week). The onus, they said, is now on Democrats either to advance Trump’s proposal or to counter it with their own—simply rebuking it, they feel, is no longer politically viable.

“The question they never answer is: What is their offer, and when will they come back to the table to deliver it?” Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, a moderate Republican who engaged in talks with the White House last week, told The Atlantic.

And even conservative lawmakers, who’ve traditionally been a hard sell on legislative deals that include protections for daca recipients, praised the president for attempting to move negotiations forward. “This is the latest and most significant step yet of potus showing his willingness to negotiate and compromise with Democrats on the issue of wall funding,” the House Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a close ally of Trump’s, tweeted. “At this point, if Democrats refuse to come to the table, it will show they are not at all serious about solving this impasse.”

The source familiar with the negotiations told The Atlantic that the White House’s offer began to come together shortly after Pelosi proposed postponing Trump’s State of the Union address, originally scheduled to take place on January 29. It was then that McConnell, the source said, urged Trump to announce a comprehensive offer to end the shutdown—and quickly. “The leader said to potus, ‘Start thinking about what you want to do to shake things up.’ Because it was clear to him then that Democrats just weren’t going to move.”

So on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and the senior adviser Jared Kushner met with McConnell in his Capitol Hill office to begin ironing out the proposal. The source said the meeting was publicized intentionally, as a way to showcase the White House’s continued efforts to reach a solution in the midst of the standstill.

But even in the lead-up to Saturday’s remarks, Democrats felt that the administration’s efforts were disingenuous, as they’d rejected similar offers from the administration in the past. And several took issue with the president framing the proposal as a bipartisan solution, when Democrats hadn’t been consulted on it beforehand.

“We’re bad at negotiating, but we’re not that bad,” said one House Democratic staffer. If the president had instead offered a more permanent solution—say, a pledge to sign the dream Act, a measure first introduced in 2001 that would allow undocumented immigrants who attend college or serve in the military to eventually gain legal status—Democrats might have been on board, the source said.

Saturday concluded as yet another day in which several things happened—a televised address, a flurry of statements from lawmakers and aides—but nothing changed. Ultimately, for all the dressings of a shiny new proposal, the White House’s request for $5.7 billion for a border wall stayed firm. And it’s unclear whether Democrats plan to respond to Trump’s offer with a proposal of their own, or whether their demand that the White House reopen the government sans a new immigration policy remains absolute, like their opposition to the wall.

Early signs indicate that it will.

“Democrats,” as one senior House Democratic aide told The Atlantic, “are not willing to negotiate at gunpoint.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.