President Donald Trump has taken almost every possible Republican position on immigration in the span of a week as he’s tried to deal with the crisis he created of separating thousands of children from their parents at the border.
He’s changed policies, made declarations, said his hands were tied, untied them to sign an executive order that may or may not accomplish anything, blamed Democrats, blamed his predecessors, demanded Congress act, tried to force Congress to act, refused to endorse a specific congressional bill, promised a sweeping immigration reform was possible and, most recently, said Congress should just give up for a while.
The tangle of statements coming from the President’s mouth, his Twitter feed, and secondhand reports of what he told Republicans during a trip to Capitol Hill are more confusing than his wife’s decision to wear an “I really don’t care. Do U?” jacket on a surprise trip to see detained kids at the border.
If you were to try to chart Trump’s positions over the course of a week week, it would go something like this (we’re mostly paraphrasing here and forgive us if we’re missing a position or two):
- I hate that I have to do this.
- It’s Democrats’ fault. They should work on legislation with Republicans.
- This can help us fix the immigration problem.
- We can’t let the US become a migrant camp.
- I can’t do anything about it. It’s the law I’m enforcing.
- The immigration crisis is a monstrosity.
- If we don’t do this separate children and families, immigrants will flood the border.
- Fine. I’ll sign an executive order, but I still have zero tolerance.
- These kids are fine and staying in the nicest facilities.
- Seriously. People are suffering and it’s Democrats’ fault.
- You guys figure it out, I’ll sign a bill you give me.
- Doesn’t matter which one.
- The non-bipartisan so-called compromise bill is nice.
- These stories of immigrant children are phony.
- Fine. Give up. Don’t waste your time before the election.
- Elect more Republicans.
Months ago Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the “zero-tolerance” policy, but it has festered until Trump began weighing in, trying last Saturday to blame Democrats for how he’s enforced the laws.
It’s festered into a full-blown crisis that’s impossible to keep track of and which Republicans in Congress, who failed to pass a hardline bill and failed to take a vote on an internal Republican compromise have shown themselves incapable of addressing with legislation despite Trump saying at the White House this week that a systemic reform bill is within reach.
Meanwhile, the outrage and outcry have turned the nation’s attention and scrutiny to the border in a way that picks at Washington’s inadequacies.
If you were looking for the issue that could make Republican governors openly question the White House and pull National Guard troops ordered by the President, this is it.
Democrats, powerless to put their own priorities into play, aren’t likely to roll over and adopt the hardline about an “infestation” of immigrants, coming from the White House.
If they can’t find agreement among themselves, Republicans will be incapable of finding the kind of bipartisan support they’d need to pass something through the Senate, especially if Trump continues to insist on billions in funding for his long-promised border wall. Look for that issue to rear it’s head again when lawmakers try to fund the government before the election.
Unclustering things on the border has proven just as difficult, with a lack of clarity about how many children have been separated from their families, how many may have been reunited, how and whether the government will prosecute their parents, how exactly they’re being cared for and how the rest will find their way home.