The easy takeaway from President Donald Trump’s latest round of attacks on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era immigration policy he’s seeking to end, is that he simply doesn’t understand how it works.
History offers little evidence to suggest Trump is more than casually acquainted with the issue and his latest tweets, piled up in a fury over the holiday weekend, are fundamentally misleading. Simply put: DACA is not, as the President claimed, available to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers hoping to cross the border today.
Fact checking Trump is required work, but it has its limits. More important – and useful – may be understanding his underlying tactics. Doing that begins with accepting one abiding truth: If the President wanted a deal on DACA with congressional Democrats, he could have easily agreed to one – and gotten plenty in return.
Instead, he chose this.
Republicans and Democrats came close, or so it seemed on a few occasions, to a DACA deal. House and Senate minority leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer thought they had an agreement as they walked out of a White House meeting last September, about a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions set a six-month expiration date on the program.
“Go ahead” and vote on a clean DACA bill, Trump told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, during a televised January gathering. (House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy jumped in at that point to walk him back from that position.)
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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Central American immigrants depart ICE custody, pending future immigration court hearings on June 11, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. Thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to cross into the U.S., despite the Trump administration's recent "zero tolerance" approach to immigration policy. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 29: Demonstrators hold a rally in the Little village neighborhood calling for the elimination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and an end to family detentions on June 29, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests have erupted around the country recently as people voice outrage over the separation and detention of undocumented children and their parents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House chaos over immigration reversal
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Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (L) and Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border, reversing a harsh practice that had earned international scorn."It's about keeping families together," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "I did not like the sight of families being separated," he added. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
What's next after Trump's policy reversal?
Trump meeting 06202018
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President Donald Trump signs an executive order to keep families together at the border, but says that the 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue, during an event in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Standing behind Trump are Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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THE PRESIDENT meets with the National Space Council In-House Pool (Pre-set 9:30AM | Final Gather 11:15AM -- Palm Room Doors)
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By the end of the week, negotiations were flaming out. If the President’s remarks about “people from shithole countries” threw the talks for a loop, the administration demands for significant changes to legal immigration policy in exchange for a DACA pact effectively ended them. When Democrats offered border wall funding in a straight-up swap and were duly rejected, the issue – and with it, the fate of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and “Dreamers” – was all but officially punted to the next Congress.