Many political observers have assumed that President Donald Trump would use the upcoming fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to force Congress to approve funding for a wall on the Mexican border.
After all, the DACA program is politically popular in the nation at large (although unpopular with Trump's base), whereas the border wall is unpopular with the nation at large (but popular with Trump's base). Given that the wall and the DACA program both touch on the issue of illegal immigration, the deal seems like a natural bipartisan bargain that Trump would naturally insist on: Fund the wall, or face a DACA veto.
However, the White House indicated Tuesday that Trump does not see it that way.
According to The Hill, White House legislative director Marc Short seemed to suggest that Trump viewed the passage of a legislative DACA fix as an important and desirable result, and rejected the idea that Trump would insist that any such legislation be tied to border wall funding. In comments that have already raised eyebrows among immigration hawks, Short remarked:
“We’re interested in getting border security and the president has made the commitment to the American people that a barrier is important to that security,” Short said. “Whether or not that is part of a DACA equation, or ... another legislative vehicle, I don’t want to bind us into a construct that would make the conclusion on DACA impossible.”
Short was adamant, however, that Trump will continue to press for the wall:
“The president is not backing off a border wall,” he said. “The president is committed to sticking by the commitment that a physical structure is needed ... whether that is part of a DACA package or another package, I won’t prejudge that today, but he’s committed to getting that wall built.”
However, if Trump signs a DACA bill that does not include significant concessions for immigration hawks (like a border wall), it will be sure to anger many of Trump's most committed supporters.
Former White House Chief Strategist and current Breitbart executive Steve Bannon, who is perhaps one of the leading spokesmen for the immigration hawks that make up Trump's base, has predicted a "civil war" within the GOP if the party caves on DACA.
If a DACA bill sails through Congress and is ultimately signed into law by Trump without funding for the border wall attached, it will likely be a bitter pill for many Trump supporters to swallow.