Forget the noise for a moment. Eight months into the Trump administration, all you can say for sure about several long-simmering immigration issues is that they have entered a new state of flux.
These include: Whether those brought here illegally in childhood should face deportation, how to better secure the U.S. border, how best to weed out foreign criminals, how many people to legally admit from abroad and from what nations.
All are parts of the overall picture, possibly shifting now, and in theory, subject to trade-offs among elected officials.
Because President Donald Trump has been talking agreeably about it with Democratic minority leaders in Congress, the spotlight shines this week on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
President Barack Obama created this by executive action, sidestepping Congress. It was challenged in court. It does not grant the 800,000 people affected legal immigration status. The courts never clearly upheld or voided the constitutionality of the deferred-action policy.
Even though he canceled the program, the current president speaks sympathetically, now, of so-called Dreamers affected by the act. On Thursday, he said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are “on board” with the move to legislatively protect them.
At the same time, Trump’s White House is still struggling in court to establish presidential control over immigration policy by barring entry to those from a half-dozen mostly Muslim nations.
Trump still demands his border wall. Congressional leaders appear to take this expensive vision less than seriously. The president’s words suggest an effort to show momentum.
“The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built,” Trump tweeted early Thursday.
“Build that wall!” was chanted too many times at too many rallies for Trump to just let the whole thing go, of course. Could the less-controversial hiring of many more border police scratch that itch for the moment?
Closer to home, the concern is the super-violent MS-13 gang that sprang from El Salvador. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joined in the efforts this week by assigning state troopers to some schools in Suffolk County to stop gangs from recruiting students.
Elsewhere there has been a federal-local clash over immigrant criminals involving the handover of inmates to federal authorities for immigration action — and whether court orders are needed.
Remember that the administration last month also backed a proposal to cut legal immigration in half within 10 years by curbing U.S. citizens’ options to bring over their relatives.
Does DACA become a bargaining chip in exchange for this new restriction, or for some other initiative?
Imagine a mess of jigsaw pieces now spread out on the congressional negotiating table, waiting once again to be fit together into a deal of some kind. So far, Trump and top Democrats have started moving those pieces around the surface.