Friday, September 22, 2017

Dream On

Representative Nancy Pelosi is drawing fire for appearing to be ready to compromise with President Trump and congressional  Republicans on immigration reform. The undocumented protestors are demanding that the laws of what is effectively a foreign nation be altered to suit their desires, and are protesting Representative Pelosi not because she disagrees with their ultimate goals, but because, as a person who will actually have to do the work of making immigration reform happen, she refuses to take a hard line that she has no leverage to buttress. Rather she is dealing with reality as it currently is, and not what an idealized (and perhaps ideological) reality would look like.

While this is unlikely to become a public relations faux pas on the level of people marching for immigration reform under the flags of their home nations from some years ago, it's unlikely to help their case. Whether or not the Dreamers, or anyone else from (mainly) Latin America, have a right to a life in the United States is not settled law. And if there is one thing that tends to rankle American Conservatives, it's treating issues as settled before they're done arguing them. And given that it's Conservatives who are the most opposed to the presence of people in the country illegally, they're likely to see the protests as simple lawlessness (aided and abetted by Democratic politicians looking for more voters).

The Dreamer's main issue is that they aren't in a position to demand anything. Whether they understand things that way or not, they're supplicants in this process. They lack the direct ability to punish anyone because although they may be sympathetic figures, they're non-voters by definition (and by law - and it's a safe bet that somewhere, there's a Republican operative who would like nothing better than to catch a Dreamer or ten engaged in voter fraud). That pretty much reduces their leverage to their ability to get other people to vote as they request, and it's unlikely that they could muster enough support to do in Minority Leader Pelosi on their own. Therefore, despite how just they understand their cause to be, they're in something of a bad position - feeling the need to advocate strongly on their own behalf, yet facing limits as to what they can actually do. After all, a sufficiently motivated Republican caucus in the House of Representatives can effectively deep-six the conversion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals into federal law. And given that the likelihood that the Trump Administration would defend the law in court is effectively zero, encoding it into law is more or less the only way it survives at the federal level. Representative Pelosi is not in a position to force the Republicans into concessions on this, they have a better hand than she does. While the very fact that some sort of compromise is even being considered is significant, it's not indicative of a groundswell of support for the sort of immigration regime that the protestors seem to want. They might not have to care about that, but if Representative Pelosi is going to have anything to show for this when it's all said and done, she can't afford not to care.

No comments: