Members of President Trump’s White House — including immigration hardliners like Stephen Miller — have been hard at work with Republicans in the House of Representatives on crafting a “compromise” immigration bill for the House to vote on next week.
Trump himself may just have torpedoed it.
On Fox & Friends Friday morning, Trump mentioned that he’s “looking at” the two immigration bills the House is set to vote on next week: the conservative bill written by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and the compromise bill that House leadership has crafted with input from moderate Republicans and the White House. Then he said this:
.@realDonaldTrump on immigration bills in Congress: "I'm looking at both of them. I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."— David Chalian (@DavidChalian) June 15, 2018
The “more moderate” bill was explicitly designed to adhere to the “four pillars” that Trump mandated in January be a part of any immigration deal: money for the “wall” he wants to build on the US-Mexico border; elimination of the diversity visa lottery; curbing family-based immigration (which the Trump administration refers to as “chain migration”); and a way for the immigrants currently facing the loss of their protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to apply for formal legal status in the US.
It also gives the Trump administration what it’s been demanding more recently, as it’s turned its attention to trying to reduce the number of asylum seekers (especially Central Americans, and especially families) coming into the US without papers: It drastically raises the bar for the initial screening that allows someone to stay in the US and pursue an asylum case; it allows the US to turn back any asylum seeker who’s come through Mexico and tell them to seek asylum there instead; and it allows children to be detained indefinitely by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which the Trump administration claims is the only alternative to separating them from their parents at the border).
As late as Wednesday, the White House was helping Republican leadership sell the deal to conservatives in the House. Stephen Miller, the biggest immigration hardliner in Trump’s White House, went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby one of the House’s most influential conservative caucuses, the Republican Study Committee. According to Politico’s Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle:
During the meeting, Miller told conservatives that the bill is “the best thing we’ve seen since 1965, with the original immigration law that we have,“ according to GOP Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida, who was in the meeting. And to kill the bill, he said, “would be to accept the status quo, which is inappropriate for us.“
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that he’d been working “hand in glove” with the Trump administration; he told Republican members of Congress that Trump was “excited” to sign the bill.
It’s entirely possible that Trump will change his mind — possibly many times — between now and next week when the bill comes to the floor. But that’s exactly the problem. House conservatives who were wary of any “compromise” bill, and of any bill that would ultimately allow some unauthorized immigrants to become citizens, are only going to vote for this bill if they know that President Trump will defend it to the Republican base.
Trump has just demonstrated that he can’t be trusted to do that reliably. Even if he changes his position on the bill between now and next week, there’s nothing to stop him from changing his position again after the vote.
Stephen Miller might think that not passing any bill is “inappropriate,” but Donald Trump has just made it the most likely outcome by far.