A group of Republican state attorney generals effectively extorted Trump into killing DACA—the policy that has protected hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from deportation—threatening to sue the Trump administration for continuing the program if it wasn’t ended by September 5. But while Trump’s hardline supporters cheered when it was reported on Thursday that he would end the program, some congressional Republicans have responded by insisting that some compromise be found.
Paul Ryan’s response was typical of this group. “President Obama did not have the legislative authority to do what he did. You can’t as an executive, write law out of thin air,” he said. But, he added, these “are people who are in limbo. These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution.” Other congressional Republicans concurred:
Many Republicans have realized that an immigration crackdown doesn’t serve their long-term interests (remember the 2012 autopsy?). They also might have genuine reservations about turning out literally hundreds of thousands of people who have nowhere else to go. But the party has only gone in a more hawkish direction. Immigration reform failed spectacularly in 2013 and the party’s base, which wants no part in offering undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, nominated Donald Trump for president.
As they did with health care, Republicans are finding that it is easier to talk tough about immigration than to actually follow through. Still, many Republicans, most notably Jeff Flake, will face primary challenges from the right if they don’t get behind Trump. An emerging immigration debacle, in other words, is par for the course with these congressional Republicans—they don’t like what Trump is doing, but they may have to go along with it anyway.