President Donald Trump has cracked the door to an immigration deal that could not only secure the futures of the so-called Dreamers, but also put in place a comprehensive policy to serve the long-term economic interests of the United States.
Republicans and Democrats should set aside election year maneuvering, stand down the hard liners in their bases and push that door wide open.
If the president sticks to the deal-making tone he struck Tuesday in an extraordinary public negotiating session with congressional leaders from both parties, more than half of which was open to television cameras and reporters, one of the most contentious challenges facing the nation might get resolved.
Much depends on the willingness of both parties to make some difficult compromises in exchange for the things each hopes to see in a final immigration package.
The place where Republicans and Democrats find the most agreement is on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order that President Barack Obama put in place to give temporary legal status to those who were brought into this country illegally as children.
Trump killed the order last year and gave Congress until March to find a permanent solution.
Nobody wants to see the Dreamers deported, particularly since many would be returning to strange and dangerous places, and most are living productive lives in this country.
But the president wants the southern border wall he promised on the campaign trail, and the DACA immigrants are about his only bargaining chip.
He wants Democrats to provide support for funding for some form of border wall in exchange for permanent legal status for the Dreamers. That’s a deal Democrats should take, especially if Trump shows he’s serious about it being the first piece of a two-part deal that would settle broader immigration issues.
Trump said during the meeting that he would “take the heat” if Congress is willing to take the further step of providing a path to legal status for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S.
That would be a major breakthrough, and one that eluded presidents Obama and George W. Bush.
And the president would indeed have to take heat from the anti-immigration forces within his base. A strong strain of nativism runs through the right wing of the Republican Party; winning acceptance for a path to citizenship from them will not be easy.
That’s why it is critical that Democrats also be willing take some heat. They must convince the open borders crowd on the far left of their party that normalizing millions of undocumented immigrants who’ve made America their home is worth giving Trump the tighter border security and enforcement resources he seeks.
Consensus governing is nearly impossible in an election year. But this is too good an opportunity to squander.
If Trump is in a deal-making mood on such a wedge issue as immigration, Democrats are obliged to come to the table willing to compromise.