Why Won’t Republicans Cut an Immigration Deal?

K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune via ZUMA

Looking for news you can trust?Subscribe to our free newsletters.

Steve Benen reminds us that about a year ago Democrats offered President Trump a pretty spectacular deal that would have fully funded his border wall:

Though this doesn’t come up much anymore, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met privately with Trump at the White House in January, and the two had what was described as the “Cheeseburger Summit.”…The basic contours of the deal were straightforward: Schumer was willing to accept funding for a border wall in exchange for DACA protections for Dreamers.
After Trump negotiated the terms, the White House balked: Chief of Staff John Kelly called Schumer soon after to explain the plan wasn’t far enough to the right for Republicans. Trump himself declared that he’d need far more in any deal, including significant cuts to legal immigration.

It’s confounding that Trump didn’t take the deal, Benen says.
But it’s not, really, and it has nothing to do with Trump’s lousy dealmaking skills. This is the same thing that happened in 2006. And 2013. And now 2018. Every time, Democrats are willing to make a deal on immigration. Moderate Republicans are on board. But every time, the immigration hardliners object, and they get the entire right-wing noise machine on their side. The result is that Republicans cave and there’s no deal.
If there was a difference this time, it was only that Democrats were offering a truly breathtaking deal: Full $25 billion funding for a border wall, and all they wanted in return was permanent DACA protection. Hell, most Republicans like DACA. Even the hardliners don’t really hate it that much. Their hot buttons are mostly elsewhere. So why wouldn’t you take this deal that gives you everything you want in return for giving up virtually nothing?
I’m not sure. I think the immigration hardliners have just jumped the shark. They’ve backed themselves into a corner where the only deal they’ll accept is one that gives them their entire laundry list of demands and gives up nothing. And for some reason, the not-totally-crazy wing of the Republican Party allows them to call the tune instead of just cutting a deal and getting the whole thing off the table. This bullheadedness has produced massive election losses every time, so it’s a little unclear to me why they keep allowing Rush and Fox and the Freedom Caucus to kick them over a cliff. It’s produced no immigration deal, no enduring benefit for the party, and pushes them ever closer to following the California GOP down a path to demographic extinction.
But I guess it’s good for fundraising.