Trump’s DACA Deal is One of the Worst Deals in the History of Deals—Maybe Ever

daca protest

A Bird in Hand’s Worth Two in the Bush

Last week President Trump proposed terms for a deal on DACA.  Days later Trump reiterated his plan in his State of the Union address, calling it a “great deal” for Democrats.  He’s right, it is.  But for America, I am sad to say that Trump’s deal is one of the worst deals in the history of deals—maybe ever.

CNBC accurately describes Trump’s proposal as a “dream come true” for Democrats.  Not only does it give them the moon and stars, but it gives no real immediate, nor permanent concessions to the Republicans—the deal is asymmetrical.  Basically, the Democrats get a bird in hand, Republicans get two in the bush.

how immigrants entered america, raise act, immigration reform
This chart shows the proportion of immigrants entering America in 2016 according to their immigration category.

Trump’s proposal will give a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million people—up from 800,000 in his October proposal—and allow them to sponsor their spouses and children for green cards.  In exchange, Democrats will agree to scrap the visa “diversity lottery”, end chain migration, and provide $25 billion for the border wall.  While it may look like a decent trade, there are a few critical caveats.

To start, the prohibition on chain migration would not be retroactive.  This means that the 4 million family members who already applied for green cards would be processed and admitted into America over the next decade.  Thus, President Trump will be out of office before we see the end of chain migration, and there’s no guarantee that the next administration could not simply reinstate it—we may trade amnesty for nothing.

The Democrat’s other main concession is funding for border security and a wall.  Again, the problem is that funding for border security is temporary, and could easily be ended once Trump leaves office.  And although the wall is permanent and will likely be effective, the question remains whether a $25 billion wall is worth 1.8 million new citizens.  I’d say probably not.

Frankly, $25 billion is a drop in the federal budget: America spends $150 billion annually garrisoning rich foreign countries like Germany and Belgium, and nearly $50 billion on foreign aid.  Likewise, we’ve spent over $250 million on foreign wars every single day since 2001.  Finding money in Washington isn’t hard if you know where to look.  Trump should look a little harder.

Why it’s Virtuous to Die on DACA Hill

1. Bad Incentive, Bad Precedent

Trump’s proposed DACA amnesty will create an enormous incentive for people to enter America illegally.  It broadcasts a clear signal: beat the border patrol in a game of “red rover” and we will eventually let you stay.

Amnesty is not the solution: it’s the problem.  Amnesty transforms America into a giant lure for the world’s poor, and an irresistible magnet for human traffickers.  The evidence for this is overwhelming: after President Obama (illegally) signed DACA there was an unprecedented spike in youth migration into the United States.

Also consider how the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to 2.7 million aliens, kicked off the greatest tidal wave of illegal immigration in American history.  At the time, President Reagan said amnesty would be a permanent solution, and yet at least 20 million illegals settled in America since, according to a new study from Yale University, and we are again considering amnesty.  Compare this to the approach that President Eisenhower took when he deported nearly 3 million illegal migrants: very few came for over thirty years, until the political climate turned.  Incentives matter.

DACA is counter-productive: it makes a bad problem worse.

2. Democrats Need DACA

It’s no secret that the Democratic Party lost the war of ideas decades ago—now it depends almost wholly upon immigrant voters to survive.  In fact, a report from the Center for Immigration Studies shows that immigrants vote Democrat by a ratio of at least 2:1, and that the gap is widening. This has major political consequences—especially since there are now more than 45 million immigrants living in America—an all-time high.

Remember, the last presidential election Democrats won without immigrant voters was that of Lyndon B. Johnson back in 1964 (excluding Ross Perot’s vote-splitting antics in 1992).  Democrats need immigration.  It is a matter of political survival.  This has important ramifications for the debate at hand.

A DACA amnesty will give the Democrats nearly 2 million new voters, conveniently concentrated in a few states.  This will tip elections in their favor, opening the door to further amnesties, and greater immigration.  Had DACA recipients been able to vote in the last election, Hillary Clinton would have likely won both Florida and Arizona—and therefore the presidency.  Granting amnesty is a fatal strategic mistake for the Republican Party, and will be the death-knell for conservative electoral victories in this nation.

There is also an asymmetry of motive at play: if the Democrats accept Trump’s DACA deal, they will work frantically to repeal the immigration restrictions.  They must, and eventually they will succeed.  After all, legislation can be repealed, amnesty cannot.

3. Americans Must Come Before Illegals

The fact of the matter is that illegal immigration is bad for America’s economy.

It all boils down to supply and demand.  Consider the apple market: if the supply of apples increases, what happens? The price of apples goes down. But if a stiff frost destroys most of the apples, leading to a shortage, the price of apples rises since there are fewer apples to go around.

Labor markets work the same way: more workers mean lower wages, fewer workers mean higher wages. Trump’s amnesty will add some 1.8 million new workers into the U.S. market—these people compete with American workers, driving down wages and boosting unemployment. Granted, some 800,000 of them already work under the current DACA regime, but many do not.

Likewise, the fact that they currently work does not mean that the situation for US workers would not be improved by their absence.  Recall how President Trump’s crackdown on illegal aliens has already caused wages for construction workers to rise by 30 percent in Texas (half of Texas’ construction workers were illegal aliens).

Likewise, towns in Maine were forced to hire American workers after the availability of visas for temporary foreign workers dried up. What happened? Unemployment decreased, wages increased, and working conditions improved in order to attract American workers—all good things.  Illegal labor has completely undermined U.S. labor markets, and hurt millions of American citizens; the only people benefiting are the very rich. Illegal immigration is bad for the economy: this is an empirical fact, not a point of contention.

Perhaps an even more insidious problem is that of the opportunity cost of illegal immigration.  According to a recent study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, American taxpayers spend over $135 billion on welfare for illegal aliens annually.  This money could, and should be spent on American citizens.

Right now some 500,000 American citizens are chronically homeless—of these, 49,933 are US military veterans.  Even worse, according to Covenant House, a nonprofit group, some 2 million American children experience a spell of homelessness every single year.  These are American citizens, some who fought and bled for our country, and yet we let them rot on the streets while we provide welfare for illegal immigrants.

President Trump says he wants to put America first, and yet his proposed DACA deal does the opposite.

What to do About DACA?

Politicians frame the debate over DACA as being a binary choice: amnesty or deportation.  But there are other options on the table.  For example, perhaps Congress could give permanent residency status to all DACA recipients, as opposed to a pathway to citizenship.  If said resident wanted citizenship status, they would need to go through the same legal process as everyone else.

Or perhaps the solution is simply to get a better deal: offer a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in exchange for increased border security and the full-fledged RAISE Act—and stipulate that it takes effect immediately and retroactively.  This would not only cut immigration levels in half, but would clear the backlog of 4 million non-economic immigrants.

Either way, President Trump’s current proposal goes against America’s interests, and should be wholly rejected.

About Spencer P Morrison 160 Articles
J.D. B.A. in Ancient & Medieval History. Writer and independent intellectual, with a focus on applied philosophy, empirical history, and practical economics. Author of "Bobbins, Not Gold," Editor-In-Chief of the National Economics Editorial, and contributor to American Greatness. His work has appeared in publications including the Daily Caller, the American Thinker, and the Foundation for Economic Education.