If Trump is such a great deal-maker, let him prove it by negotiating new immigration plan

One of Donald Trump’s chief claims to the presidency was that he is one of the greatest deal maker in the history of the universe. So far, there has been scant evidence of that.

The trade deal with Canada and Mexico was renegotiated. But it languishes, with no immediate prospect of it being ratified by Congress. Other than that, there have been erratic, unilateral presidential decisions and tweets, designed to put pressure on others, internationally and domestically. But no deals.

Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t Trump prove his deal-making chops on his signature domestic issue — immigration?

Trump talks and postures a lot on immigration, giving a big speech Thursday mostly about moving to a system based more on skills and economic needs and less on family unification.

President Donald Trump unveiled his new immigration plan Thursday that would give preferential treatment to high-skilled, "totally brilliant" immigrants. It would also require immigrants to speak English and pass a civics exam prior to admission. (May 16)
AP, AP

But getting something done, big or small, requires making a deal. Democrats control the House. The filibuster gives them the equivalent of a veto in the Senate.

Trump can’t muscle or tweet his way through or around that. And no feasible 2020 outcome would give him a filibuster-proof Senate.

Senate got close in 2007

The framework of a deal already exists. It’s what was negotiated by former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2007.

The basic bargain was this: Democrats win the argument about the past. Republicans win the argument about the future.

Put another way: Democrats get amnesty for those currently in the country illegally. Republicans get the border security and enforcement provisions they want, along with a change in priority for future legal immigration.

President Donald Trump speaks about modernizing the immigration system in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

Under the Kennedy-Kyl legislation, those currently in the country illegally would have received a new visa enabling them to stay indefinitely. Ultimately, they could convert those into green cards and a path to citizenship.

The politics haven’t changed much

Border resources would have been amplified and employers required to use an enhanced E-Verify system to electronically confirm work eligibility. Family-based immigration would have been restricted to spouses and children.

Future legal immigration would be based largely on skills, but there would be a generous, temporary guest worker program for the low-skilled.

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An illegal immigrant killed my daughter. Trump’s right — we must complete the border wall.

In Congress, the bargain was undercut by liberal senators eroding the guest worker provision, which the labor unions opposed.

But the deal was ultimately overwhelmed by opposition to amnesty by the grassroots right.

The politics haven’t changed much. And the grassroots right that opposes amnesty constitutes the most reliable element of Trump’s base.

Asylum-seekers have created a real crisis

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