On Saturday President Trump shrewdly flipped the table on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the government shutdown standoff.
Mr. Trump has now proposed a grand bargain on immigration: Legalization of some 1 million so-called “Dreamers” — the foreigners who were brought into the United States illegally by their parents — and an immediate end to the shutdown, if she agrees to expand funding to $5.7 billion for the wall.
It’s the kind of checkmate political maneuver that may guarantee his reelection.
It’s smart because it now puts the onus on Mrs. Pelosi to open the government. It also puts the pressure on Mrs. Pelosi to act on immigration reform. For 25 years Democrats have preferred to politicize the immigration issue — and treat Hispanic voters as political hostages — rather agree to a bipartisan solution to deal with the 10 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States.
There’s no good option for Mrs. Pelosi now.
If she says yes to this deal, Mr. Trump fulfills a critical campaign promise — build the wall — and he can take political credit for a humane and popular way to give Dreamers the right to stay in this country. He can boast about this in his State of the Union and tell voters that he achieved an immigration solution that none of his predecessors — not even Barack Obama — could. He can boast of the wall and freedom from government persecution for the Dreamers.
He can also score big gains with Latino voters. Many believe that Mr. Trump dislikes them and is “racist.” This deal — combined with the best job market for Hispanics in 50 years — would show immigrants that r. Trump cares about them and has taken significant actions to improve their lives and their economic opportunities.
If Pelosi says no to the DACA for the wall deal, suddenly she is the hardheaded politician that is keeping the government shutdown. She will have rejected a deal that most Americans will regard as fair and reasonable.
She will also now be seen as the obstacle to immigration reform. My Democratic friends on Capitol Hill confirm to me privately that the last thing Mrs. Pelosi wants is for Mr. Trump to steal credit for solving the immigration crisis and making headway with Hispanics. This is why she rejected a previous trial balloon proposal by Mr. Trump to legalize Dreamers.
Many Latino voters will see that she is more interested in political power, rather than taking positive steps to actually help prevent a family member from facing deportation. If Mr. Trump could win 10 percent more of the Hispanic vote, no Democrat can defeat him.
Yes, the devil is in the details of the DACA deal. This should not include a path to citizenship. Citizenship would reward an illegal act. It also must not be an “amnesty,” but rather an “earned legalization.” The Dreamers should qualify if they pay a fine for their illegal entry and there must be very strict prohibitions imposed on DACA residents against obtaining welfare benefits in the future. Most immigrants who are hardworking would accept those conditions in a heartbeat.
Mr. Trump might also put on the table an expansion of the H1B program that allows highly talented engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and others with specialized skills to come and stay in the United States. They create far more jobs than they take.
Mr. Trump is to be commended for accepting a political reality: The Dreamers are going to get legal status at some point and why not now so Mr. Trump can take credit. Republican political pollster Ed Goeas has recently noted that this proposal combines two popular concepts — the wall and DACA.
The political chaos from the government shutdown hasn’t been working in the president’s favor. He needed an exit strategy. Some four weeks into the shutdown standoff, he found it. Now one way or the other, Mr. Trump will come out a big winner — at Mrs. Pelosi’s expense. Well done, Mr. President.
• Stephen Moore, a columnist for The Washington Times, is an economic consultant with FreedomWorks and served as a senior economic advisor to Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. Arthur Laffer is chairman of Laffer Associates.
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