DACA youths rely on dealmaker Trump


Suddenly, in Washington deal-making is busting out all over, most significantly between President Donald Trump and his new BFPNFs — Best Friends, Probably Not Forever — in Democratic leadership.

Suddenly, in President Trump’s telling, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are jolly “Chuck” from Brooklyn and “Nancy” from San Francisco, not “clown” and “incompetent,” their earlier tags in Trumpspeak.

Suddenly, Trump was on his phone Thursday morning, calling the two Democratic leaders to gush about the televised news reactions to the fiscal deal he reached with Chuck and Nancy, much to the consternation of Trump’s Republican allies who were blindsided by the deal.

“The press has been incredible,” Trump told Pelosi, according to an unnamed source quoted by the New York Times. Even Fox News was positive, Trump gushed to Schumer, according to the Times.

That sounds like our reality TV president. For all the rhetorical shots he takes at “lying media” and “dishonest press,” the former host of “The Apprentice” still yearns for favorable reviews.

Later in the day, Trump was spreading his joy on TV himself, vowing to cut more deals in a bipartisan way, harvesting votes on the Democratic side when he can’t get a win from the Grand Old Party’s votes alone.

Suddenly, a day after announcing he would rescind President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields from deportation undocumented immigrants who came to this country as minors, Trump was hinting at more deals. He could work to turn DACA into permanent law in exchange for something Trump wants — like, perhaps, Democratic support for his proposed “beautiful wall” on the Mexican border.

”Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do),” Trump tweeted. “If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”

And, suddenly, while many wondered what that “revisit” will mean, Trump basked in admiration of his statesmanlike pose. Still, Pelosi urged Trump to tweet reassurance to the nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who received work permits and other protections under DACA.

And Trump did. “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period,” he tweeted early Thursday, “you have nothing to worry about — No action!”

Good. Considering Trump’s past flip-flops on this issue, among others, it was smart of Pelosi to get this promise in writing.

But as much as I dislike adding to the anxiety already being felt by those who currently have DACA protection, experience tells us that when Donald Trump says “you have nothing to worry about,” maybe you do.

Four years ago, as Trump was beginning to flirt with a presidential run, he met in Trump Tower with a delegation of a half-dozen DACA recipients, who often refer to themselves as “Dreamers.” Afterwards happily declared, “You convinced me.”

But when Trump launched his campaign two years later, he slimed Mexicans and other immigrants as mostly “rapists” and “killers,” and promised a get-tough immigration agenda, including an immediate end to the DACA policy that he incorrectly called “amnesty.”

But after his election, Trump softened his rhetoric, after ramping up immigration enforcement efforts by executive order. Those covered by DACA could “rest easy,” he said, because they weren’t targets for deportation under his policy.

Yet, contrary to his promise that his crackdown would focus on “criminals” and “bad hombres,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed in May that the biggest spike in immigration arrests has actually been those with no criminal records. Sad hombres, maybe, but not that bad.

Yet, sadly and significantly, a Texas DACA-protected immigrant named Alonso Guillen drowned in the Houston area where he was trying to help rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey. He quickly became a national symbol of the so-called Dreamers. They have been well-vetted by the government after turning over all of their personal information for scrutiny. Now, if there’s a roundup of Dreamers, they’ll be just that much more easy to track down.

That would be a double tragedy. The young people who could lose their DACA protection tend to be the sort of honest, ambitious, hard-working and outstanding students, soldiers and workers who have helped make this country great long before Trump turned that into a slogan.

He should help them to help America be even greater. Even a Trump skeptic like me will give him good reviews for that — and I just put that in writing.

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By Clarence Page

Clarence Page is a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board. Readers may send him email at cpage@chicagotribune.com.