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Cameron.jpg Cameron Ventura, Immigration Activist

On 9 January, President Trump gathered a coalition of bipartisan congresspeople together to discuss the necessity of passing immigration reform – primarily regarding DACA, secondarily regarding “comprehensive reform”.

The table was full; each participant coming with their own ideas and desires regarding both how to handle DACA, and how they define “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” For 55 minutes the only clear conclusion agreed on by everyone in the room was that we need to protect DACA recipients from loosing protected status and that we need a strong border. That was it. No additional comment, no additional details – pure, cut and dry consensus.

Yet what do we see not even 24 hours after that meeting? The president’s party is speaking as though DACA is a request from the Democrats, and in order to give them what they want he will have to get border security (including a wall), Visa lottery removal, “chain migration” removal, and merit-based immigration implementation. No longer is DACA middle ground in which we are all agreed. Passing a fix for DACA was advertised as the low hanging fruit – the necessary win that we all agreed needed to happen. This is what President Trump requested when he revoked the executive order instituting DACA – he requested that Congress come together to pass a permanent, congressional replacement for DACA. Yet before the week is out we are back to playing politics.

The inefficiency of government is no clearer than when a clear agreement exists on all sides of the aisle – yet progress is stagnant. Why does this happen? This happens whenever one group believes that they can get more when they see an easy grab and instead of fixing problems, they reach for all the chips on the table. They re-frame the conversation to make it look like they are giving up everything and getting nothing in the hopes to convince their opponent to give up ground.

On Tuesday the whole table was agreed on a fix for DACA and increased border security. Understanding that these two points were at no point contested. Both sides agreed that both of these points were desirable and necessary. But what happened?

Well, just a few minutes into the discussion President Trump provided a little more detail – stating that not only did he want a DACA fix and border security, but he had a proposition:

Multi-faceted approach to “Border Security”

Closing of “enforcement loopholes”

Additional funding for ICE

A physical wall, not covering rivers and mountains

Ending “Chain Migration” – or, as I like to call it, “Family Reunification Migration”

Canceling the Visa Lottery

Although the Visa Lottery as he described, doesn’t exist. He erroneously claims that this is a list of the worst citizens of a country provided by that country’s leadership. In fact, this is a program created to allow those without exceptional wealth or skill the possibility of legal immigration. The names on the list are volunteers, not chosen by the government.

Adding “merit” to the requirements of any legal immigration

Multiple times throughout the meeting President Trump mentions the importance of passing DACA immediately, and handling everything else in “Phase Two.” Without question, the contested points of this new legislation will fall on the details. Everyone can gladly agree to “a secure border” – but what that means will be the destruction of any progress made thus far.

At one point, just after the 30-minute mark, Senator Feinstein pauses the entire discussion and asks the president whether we can take care of DACA first, then continue discussing everything else. His response was emphatic agreement. His literal words were, “I have no problem with that; do DACA, then move on with the rest of it in phase 2.”

At this moment it seems clear that President Trump is totally on board with this plan. So why isn’t it an easy phase 1, with the tough stuff following? The answer comes in when Representative Kevin McCarthy re-frames the conversation – pulling the president back into the realm of standard Republican politics. Whoever thought that the president couldn’t be played can see a clear example of this by re-watching this exchange.

For the rest of the meeting, President Trump hits on the leaps and bounds of progress we have seen regarding “chain migration,” seemingly implying that this is now a lesser issue and not something that is mandatory for phase 1.

So what happens next?

Those invited to the meeting will continue to debate and negotiate, hopefully arriving at an agreement before the January 19 deadline. But more specifically – what does that look like?

Based on news articles released in the past 24 hours, nothing good. While all present sides at the January 9 meeting agreed on the importance of passing DACA and on generic “border security” – one side isn’t willing to play ball. The way that negotiations work, each side has something that they want and they give-and-take until both sides feel like they are getting more than they are giving. The problem with this situation? The more Republican side says they want DACA, a wall, ICE funding, and the removal of two legal immigration pathways. The more democratic side wants….DACA.

Rational thinking says that if both sides agree on one point – pass that one point and deal with the rest in phase 2. But that’s not happening. The “Pillar Team” seems to be unwilling to budge in any point, and unwilling to pass a clean DACA fix. The details don’t lie. We must hold our representatives accountable. Call your Senators. Call your Representatives. Call your president. Keep these details in mind next election cycle. Our government is to fight on behalf of the will of the people. Evaluate the narrative and the facts and you decide who is playing with the lives of 800,000 people. We must do better. As my friend Rondell Treviño says – immigrants are people to love, not problems to solve.

Grace and peace.

Memphis immigration Project exists to engage issues of Immigration from a biblical perspective.

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