Trump Appears To Make Concessions On A DACA Deal, Then The White House Pulls Them Back

Less than a day after the President appeared to make a major concession regarding DACA, the White House has thrown a monkey wrench into the whole process.

As I noted in my earlier post, yesterday President Trump appeared to make a significant concession with regard to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue when he said that he’d be willing to accept a DACA deal that included a path to citizenship. Today, the White House made clear that there’s much more to what the White House will demand in exchange for a deal on DACA, and it may be more than Democrats are willing to pay:

WASHINGTON — The White House is about to formally offer Democrats what it hopes will be an excruciating choice.

If Democrats want permanent relief for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including President Trump’s promise of eventual citizenship, they will have to accept a massive border wall and strict policies designed to block low-skilled immigrants from joining their families in America.

The legislative strategy is set to be released publicly on Monday. It is designed to exert maximum pressure on Democrats, who are desperate to protect the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, but who fiercely oppose the conservative immigration policies embraced by hard-line, anti-immigration activists like Stephen Miller, the president’s top domestic policy adviser in the White House.

But the strategy would work only if the Senate fails to reach a broad, bipartisan accord on an alternative: legislation that would protect the Dreamers, bolster border security, but reject the most draconian aspects of the White House’s proposal. If such legislation, now being negotiated, can win a strong majority in the Senate, it might be Mr. Trump who has the tough choice.

“This is a negotiation,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “I welcome White House input.”

Mr. Trump’s impromptu comments on Wednesday night, when he said he was open to allowing some of the young immigrants to become citizens in 10 to 12 years, were quickly followed on Thursday morning by a White House email warning of a flood of immigrants into the country and demanding an end to policies that allow families to sponsor the immigration of their immediate relatives.

And even as Mr. Trump was offering reassuring words to the Dreamers — “tell them not to worry,” he told reporters Wednesday evening — senior White House officials were emphasizing the more hard-line features of their forthcoming immigration proposal.

One senior official said the Dreamers would be given legal status so long as they were productive, law-abiding members of American society. The official said a path to citizenship was only a discussion point and would only be available to about 690,000 young immigrants who signed up for legal protections under an Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Legal status would not be extended to those who were eligible for the program but failed to register, the official said.

Taken together, the dual messages from the White House are a clear outline of the administration’s endgame as Congress struggles to reach a compromise before the expiration on March 5 of the DACA program. In September, Mr. Trump ended the program and set it to expire at the beginning of March, when recipients would no longer be able to work legally in the United States and would once again face the threat of deportation.

But Democratic lawmakers and activists are vowing to resist the president’s trap. They say they will refuse to accept any proposal that requires them to forsake the well-being of other immigrants, including the parents of the Dreamers, to secure the fate of the young immigrants themselves.

“We will oppose it. Most if not all Democrats will oppose it. Some Republicans will, too,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group. “We are not going to allow Stephen Miller to exploit a crisis that he and his boss created to take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty and enact his nativist wish list.”

This latest announcement from the White House is, of course, further evidence that putting any trust in the things that this President says regarding trust is a mistake. More than once he has said one thing on one day only to turn around and say something entirely different within a short time thereafter. Last year, for example, Trump declared victory in the White House Rose Garden when the House passed a health care reform bill only to turn around can call it “mean” a month later. It also happened the week before the shutdown when he held a bipartisan meeting with Members of Congress and the Senate in which he essentially told them to go back and come up with a proposal to fix the DACA issue and stated that he would sign whatever they came up with. Within a matter of days, Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin had come up with just such a proposal that appeared to have broad bipartisan support. When they went to the White House to present that plan to the President, though, they found their proposal being rebuffed. This is the same meeting at which the President made his now infamous comments about immigrants from “shithole” countries. It was at that point, that things in the Senate started going downhill and led to the shutdown that ended on Monday. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put it over the weekend, negotiating with this President is like negotiating with Jello. Even when he makes a clear and unequivocal statement on what he might accept in legislation, it’s become inevitable that the White House or Trump himself will walk it back.

All of this comes even as the Senate is working on a DACA deal that won’t be easy to pass to begin with, and it’s bound to complicate matters. As I’ve noted, while it may be likely that there will be a bill to extend DACA brought to the Senate floor before February 8th as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised, there’s no guarantee that such a bill will pass or that it will pass in a form acceptable to the parties who are most vehement in pushing for relief for DACA beneficiaries. There’s also no guarantee that it will pass the House and now no guarantee that it will satisfy the President. Supposedly, we’re going to get some guidance on this on Monday when the White House is supposed to release the details of its own immigration proposal. If the news today is any indication, though, those details are likely to prove to be quite unpalatable to Democrats and Republicans who are eager to reach a deal on DACA. As I’ve already made clear, the path to a DACA deal is already a tough one.  The White House just made it tougher.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Fvcking incompetents. Period.
    If anyone I worked with anyone who performed like this…I would not work with them anymore.

  2. Modulo Myself says:

    The GOP is way too racist and bitter to deal with this, and the donors who are close to Schumer are too cowardly to call them out and force an issue.

    Meanwhile, the Dreamers are real human beings, and that pisses off the racists and the moderates, because it makes white Republicans look and sound insane. If they can’t handle this with some composure, what good are they as human beings? So by the time the election rolls around, these people who made the grave sin of being taken to America by their parents will be objects of pure contempt, because otherwise one would have to think there’s a pathetic sickness in the heart of white America. And that’s just crazy…

  3. KM says:

    Why in the world should Dems trust he’ll keep his word when he can’t last a day without backtracking??

    Brietbart and FOX were getting pissy with Amnesty Don so now he here is, trying to sound all tough and offering crumbs and a “hard choice” Thing is, he’s screwed no matter what. His base adamantly hates DACA and will not accept it’s survival, even if it grants them the Wall (hint: it won’t). Oh some might claim is nth-D chess but it’s obviously capitulation on the one issue Trumpkins all agree on: illegal immigration. See how it’s becoming the new top priority for the con base, letting the 800K+ plus kids stay that Repubs have been hating on for months will end very badly for a lot of people’s re-election chances.

  4. CSK says:

    The Trumpkins will tell you that Trump is playing 16-dimensional chess, and the rest of us are just too stupid to understand the subtle maneuvering of his dazzling intellect.

    Trump, in reality, just blurts out whatever floats into the space between his ears at any given time, depending on what the last person he likes who spoke to him told him to think. Remember during the campaign when he said–between 2 p.m. and five p.m. of the same day–that women should be punished for having abortions? Then he changed that to “abortion providers should be punished, not the women seeking abortions.” Finally that morphed into “leave the laws the way they are.”

    All that between lunch and the start of the cocktail hour.

  5. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    “…the donors who are close to Schumer are too cowardly to call them out don’t really give a rat’s arse about the issue.

    Fixed that.

  6. Slugger says:

    You don’t have a deal with Trump till you have cash, not a promise, a contract, a check, but cash in your pocket. Anything can be changed whenever it suits him. That has been his m.o. as a great deal maker for the last 45 years. This is not a secret known only to a few. He throws out some chum, but there is a hook amidst the bait.

  7. MikeSJ says:

    I’d take the deal. Let the dreamers avoid being deported; agree to pay for the stupid wall and agree to cutting non white legal immigration to 1920 levels.

    Then take congress in 2018 and get the presidency in 2020 and sheet-can the fence and the immigration limits. Those are changeable but getting the dreamers deported not so much.

    The problem is policy is controlled by the most extreme members and the base who want very much to just round up every one they can and ship them back.

    I don’t think this is a good deal but I do believe if it’s not agreed to then deportations will commence. I’ve likened this to a hostage situation; when the hostage takers start shooting the hostages it really puts a crimp in your negotiating position…

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    The Trumpkins will tell you that Trump is playing 16-dimensional chess, and the rest of us are just too stupid to understand the subtle maneuvering of his dazzling intellect.

    All Trump supporters care about is that he hates Mexicans and that
    he’s getting some ass on the side.
    None of them have the mental acumen to even comprehend what the words
    “…subtle maneuvering of his dazzling intellect” might mean.
    Even the holy rollers are cutting him slack.
    O course their Blessing does come with this faux admonition.
    “That support is not unconditional. If the president for some reason stopped keeping campaign promises and then engaged in that behavior now, the support’s gone,” he said.

    So Trump has an open gate here.
    As long as he keeps the campaign promises Family Research Council approves of he’s free to patronize all the porn stars he can afford!

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    O course

    I know I read this at least a dozen times before it got posted and at least once when it could have been edited.
    The only improvement to the site that would make a difference to me would be to extend the edit function from 3 very short minutes that you don’t have access to until -2:36 and counting to the rest of the day!

    Skunked me again! Just got over 4 min to edit this!

  10. CSK says:

    Just breaking from the NYTimes: Trump wanted to fire Mueller last June, but the WH lawyer, McGahn, threatened to quit if he did.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    It’s interesting that Il Douche’s hardline immigration policy would have kept his grandfather, as well as many of his henchmen’s/water carriers’ ancestors, from coming to this country…

  12. Gustopher says:

    Why do we want a path to citizenship for the people brought here illegally?

    Serious question.

    How does that not create a moral hazard that encourages more illegal immigration? What would permanent residency not give them? Can we strengthen permanent residency if there is something big?

    I don’t want to kick them out of the only country they have known, but I also don’t want to send a message that bringing a kid here illegally is a good idea. I almost want to add a 10% flat tax on their earnings, before all other taxes and subsidies come into play. (And I want them to qualify for Earned Income Tax Credits, Obamacare subsidies, and the rest… just a little harder)

    I want to find a balance between kindness and deterrence. And deterrence needs a little bit of cruelty.

  13. Tony W says:

    Negotiating with Jell-O…..

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: Oh for crying out loud. We are a nation of immigrants. A not insignificant portion of the Irish, including relatives of mine, were here illegally until Teddy Kennedy cut an amnesty deal for them. My parents and many millions like them wouldn’t be allowed in under any version of the Republican plans. 100 years ago you could show up in one of the territories, no questions asked, and then get grandfathered in when the territories became states. We, as a nation, have been built on poor people who had the gumption to uproot and head to a better life, and the desperation to keep trying until they put together a decent job, a decent shelter and a bit of food in the pot. The idea that these dreamers are so dangerous to our way of life is a crock. They are our way of life.

  15. KM says:


    Why do we want a path to citizenship for the people brought here illegally?

    Because we don’t punish victims of crimes for the crimes themselves. They were BROUGHT here, not CAME here willingly. They are essentially victims of human trafficking that just happened to be committed by their relatives. They’re American in every sense of the word but for that little piece of paper. They speak English, have lived the American lifestyle and absorbed our ideals. Some have absolutely no idea they’re not true Americans until ICE shows up as their parents have lied to them their whole lives. Many have turned out to be exemplary “citizens” and benchmarks put them as above average in things like employment rates and graduations. Other then being children kidnapped to a foreign country against their will and thus having their only crime being existing without paperwork, why WOULDN’T we want them here? Why should THEY suffer legal consequences for the crime of existing without permission when they have little to no choice in the matter – most are minors and CAN’T do anything legally!

    Feel free to punish the people who actually did the crime. Punish the ones who choose to cross the border or overstay their visa but leave the kids out of it. It gets us into a very thorny ethical area where we are essentially declaring the sins of the father upon the son. I understand the urge to curb the human trafficking but not at the expense of its’ victims once again.

  16. Kathy says:

    “He realized there was no such person as Mr. Donald Trump; there was only a shell containing the opinions of Fox & Friends, the Tweets he had seen, the flattery of oligarchs and petty tyrants, and a thirst for vacuous compliments; it was this that he had to address, this immateriality which could not hear him or answer, deaf and impersonal like a wad of cotton.”

  17. Modulo Myself says:


    This is such irritating bs. America is a safe country. Someone who lives in Ciudad Juarez looks across the river and sees a place not run by cartels and corrupt police. This is a place where they can work and have a tough but hopeful life. That’s it. They’re not part of some scam the mere thought of which terrifies retired dentists in Minnesota. If America wanted to stop undocumented immigration it would end the drug war and try to establish livable democracies in Central America rather than support coups and death squads. Almost all of the immigration from the south is due to American policy, plain and simple–whether NAFTA or drugs.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Our attitude toward Mexico is a product of white self-pity and dishonesty. Mexico does not exploit us, we exploit Mexico. We’ve been living on cheap, exploitable Mexican labor for a long, long time. Without it we don’t have agri-business. Without it the cost of food and services goes up for everyone. And profits go down. We’ve been using these people as an imported underclass, and now we’re using them as scapegoats, pretending we have to put up a wall to protect ourselves from nannies and fry cooks; protect ourselves from the drugs, like it’s their fault we buy billions of dollars of drugs. It is just shameful.

  19. Gustopher says:


    Why should THEY suffer legal consequences for the crime of existing without permission when they have little to no choice in the matter – most are minors and CAN’T do anything legally!

    Feel free to punish the people who actually did the crime. Punish the ones who choose to cross the border or overstay their visa but leave the kids out of it. It gets us into a very thorny ethical area where we are essentially declaring the sins of the father upon the son. I understand the urge to curb the human trafficking but not at the expense of its’ victims once again.

    Parents are bringing their kids across the border to give their kids a better life. Parents are making sacrifices for their kids’ benefit.

    If we don’t want parents from poorer countries to do this, we have to reduce that benefit. But at the same time, we need to balance it against the reality of the people living here, who are basically fine people.

    So, I’ll repeat my question: why is permanent legal status not good enough?

    They will be able to stay. They will be able to work. Their kids, assuming they are born in this country, will be citizens.

    Legally, we owe the kids brought here nothing. Morally, we owe them no more than we would if they were still where they were born — or do we have a greater moral obligation to aid people based on proximity?

    America can afford to be way more generous with legal immigration. I’m all in favor of ratcheting that way up.

    And, I recognize that we have created a set of perverse incentives, which creates an underclass of people without any protections. We created this problem, and we need to unwind it, but part of that has to be changing the incentives or at least not creating greater incentives.

    Giving the children brought here a path to citizenship creates an incentive for parents in poor countries to bring their kids here. Giving them permanent legal status creates a smaller (but still pretty large) incentive.

    Rather than depending entirely on using ICE as a stick to keep people from coming here, why not decrease the size of the carrot?

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: This. A hundred times this. How can you tell this latest round of immigration frenzy is about racism and not a serious policy discussion? Because these immigrants are coming here to work and it takes two parties to make that happen. And the feds are only going after the brown side. Quick, can you name one employer who’s gone to jail, or even suffered a fine? Believe me, if your average homeowner were to be slapped with a $10K fine when it turned out their low bid landscapers were illegals, the “problem” would dry up in weeks. But that’s not going to happen, because the real purpose in all this is to use the threat of the feds to keep the employees down.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    Pivoting back to the other part of Doug’s post, The worthlessness of Trump’s word is yet another example that is he is not atypical at all in the modern Republican Party but rather just a particularly stupid and clumsy example. Since the 80’s, the Repubs have broken more and more promises every year. Two particular examples where the words of a Republican meant nothing: Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Mitch gave Chuck Schumer his word that if they kept the filibuster for the Supremes when the Dems had the Senate and the White House, he would do the same if the positions were reversed. Then, Neil Gorsuch. And the betrayal I find most interesting in Ryan’s bag of tricks is one that he used against his own party. I always thought the Repub Reps were, to a person, monsters who hated the idea of poor people having healthcare. But over the past year it became obvious that a not inconsiderable number had been convinced by Ryan that he had a secret health care plan that would cover more people, more cheaply than Obamacare. It never occurred to me that anyone could be so stupid as to believe that, so they must have been in on it. But no, It appears they were that gullible.

  22. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: Permanent residents are at risk under the current administration, too. Have you heard about the doctor who came from Poland as a young child, and is a green-card holder, who has been detained by ICE due to two misdemeanors he committed as a teenager?

  23. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: About two years ago, there was a very brief attempt to create a TV series based on the movie Minority Report, set circa 2060 AD. One of the episodes was called, “Fourteen,” and focused on a group of people known as Fourteens as a result of the attempt to address the immigration crisis several decades earlier. The enacted solutions were to deport immigrants, shut down the borders, and repeal the 14th Amendment. The Fourteens were children of immigrants who were stuck here in the U.S. after these changes went into effect, not citizens of the U.S., yet not citizens of any other country, and unable to do anything about it. They existed in an underground society of crime and desperation. It was a striking look at what happens when you confine people to second class citizenship.

  24. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: Well of course! You didn’t really think that Central, Southern, and Eastern Europeans counted as white during the 1890s-1920s, did you? That came later.

  25. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    How can you tell this latest round of immigration frenzy is about racism and not a serious policy discussion?

    Ummm… because I haven’t seen a serious policy discussion on this topic come out of the halls of Congress in,,, maybe 20 years?

  26. Wr says:

    @Gustopher: Because a state in which you have a substantial portion of the population that is subject to all the rules of the state but does not share in the most important privileges leads to mass unrest followed by the imposition of repressive laws enforced by an ungovernable security apparatus. Unless you find a lot to admire in South Africa under apartheid or even our South under Jim Crow I don’t know why you’d want to create a permanent underclass like this.