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How can we get a bipartisan compromise on immigration? Ignore President Trump.

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(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Originally published by The Washington Post

There has never been a time when Washington was as consumed as it is right now with the things that come out of the president’s mouth, because we’ve never had a president who said the kind of bizarre, ludicrously false and despicable things that Donald Trump says. And in any debate over legislation, the president is usually the most important actor, the point around which everything revolves. But this is one of those rare moments when the best course of action for both Republicans and Democrats is to ignore the president. Pretend for now that he doesn’t exist, and they might actually be able to arrive at a compromise on immigration.

It’s awfully hard to do, particularly when stuff like this is happening:

“Nah, I’m not a racist,” he said. “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”

Trump accused Democrats of spoiling chances for a deal on immigration legislation and DACA.

“Honestly, I don’t think the Democrats want to make a deal,” he said. “I think they talk about DACA, but they don’t want to help the DACA people.”

This is nothing new — in the past, whenever Trump has said something shockingly racist, his response to questions about it is to say that he’s the least racist person you have ever met, an assertion usually met with mouths gaping open and heads shaking in wonder. But if Democrats and Republicans actually want to avoid a government shutdown and get an immigration compromise, they need to put all that out of their minds.

The current Republican position seems to be summed up in what Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “You can’t have immigration compromise if everybody’s out there calling the president a racist.” But why not? What if we all accept that Democrats think Trump is a racist, Republicans disagree (at least some of them) and then they put that aside and just negotiate a deal anyway — without the president?

They were extremely close before Trump went on his rant about how we shouldn’t accept immigrants from, ahem, certain countries. They were already converging on a deal that would provide a path to citizenship for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and in return Republicans would get a few billion dollars for increased border security, including some money for a border wall. So what, substantively, has changed?

Some might answer that now that the president has made his displeasure with that compromise clear — since it doesn’t do more to close the door on immigrants not possessed of that ineffable quality that resides in people from places such as Norway — the deal is in peril. After all, he’s the one who has to sign it. But if there’s one central rule when it comes to Trump and matters of policy, it’s this: Nothing he says needs to be taken seriously. Or literally, for that matter. Which is why the last thing key members of Congress should do is sit down for another meeting with the president. They should ignore all the craziness around his comments, arrive at their own compromise and pass it.

Now it should be said that immigration is just about the only policy issue that Trump has reasonably consistent opinions about. He wants to limit immigration as much as possible, and limit it as much as possible to white people. He and his administration are doing everything they can to put those principles into practice.

That’s a long-term battle, and one they’ll continue to fight. But if Congress passes this bill, Trump will sign it. He said as much last week before everything went to pieces, telling reporters that if members of Congress made an agreement, he’d sign it no matter what it contained: “I will be signing it. I’m not going to say, ‘Oh gee, I want this or I want that.’ I’ll be signing it.”

Why should we believe that if we’re not believing the other things he says? Because that will be the moment when Trump is faced with two options. One will be to veto a bill that avoids a government shutdown, which means getting blamed for the ensuing problems and extending this controversy out further. The other will be to sign the bill, get a “win” and be able to proclaim that he did what no other president could do. He can say he saved the “dreamers” and got his wall to boot, even if it’s only partially true. He can say he’s the hero.

Is there anyone who thinks Trump won’t take that opportunity?

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/01/15/how-can-we-get-a-bipartisan-compromise-on-immigration-ignore-president-trump/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.041c2041525d

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