The conventional wisdom is wrong. The Trump administration did not lose anything over the deal recently struck to keep the government open. In fact, when it comes to the tone, tenor and substance of America’s immigration debate, President Trump is winning.
For the GOP, the past month should have been politically fatal. They’d just endured a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government over demands for border wall funding that ended in diminished poll numbers and no border wall. Democrats had the upper hand in the ensuing three-week budget negotiation to find a compromise that balanced smart security with protections for select populations. Eager to avoid another shutdown and advance their own, more restrictive immigration agenda, Trump and a handful of congressional Republicans indicated an openness to trading protections for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Instead of maintaining the upper hand and continuing to focus the debate on the value of immigration, much less people, Democrats ceded their ground.
Worried they were walking into a debate about asylum protections or legal immigration, and beholden to an ideologically-pure base that demanded “Abolish ICE” and “No Wall,” Democratic leadership instructed appropriators to focus solely on spending, taking solutions for DACA and TPS recipients off the table. The White House doubled down on demands for the wall (or fence, or barrier, or “whatever”) and ratcheted up the pressure.