We are once again on the cusp of a government shutdown. Unless Donald Trump agrees to sign something by Friday, the month-long government shutdown of a few weeks ago will restart and continue until some morning’s news coverage convinces Trump that his precious border wall is less significant than, say, the full or partial closure of multiple U.S. airports for lack of federal workers.
At the moment negotiators seem to be at another impasse, once again because Donald Trump does not negotiate so much as pout. Democratic negotiators have expressed a willingness to spend up to $2 billion on barriers at the border, a substantial reversal from previous Democratic insistence that the money be allocated to other, non-wall security measures. It is a big, big concession to Trump’s tantrums—but there’s a catch.
In exchange for this new infusion of wall money, Democrats have been proposing the administration sharply curtail its “zero tolerance” roundups and detentions of non-criminal undocumented immigrants. It is the zero tolerance policy, declaring all undocumented entries worthy of imprisonment, that led to the administration’s child separation policies and subsequent tent cities for those separated children. Democrats are offering the wall money in exchange for a cap on the number of longtime undocumented residents ICE can round up and hold in detention at any one time, from the current 20,000 back to the roughly 16,500 that were detained at the end of the last administration.
This would not mean an end to the arbitrary sweeps, but it would force Team Trump’s underlings to once again prioritize dangerous criminals first, rather than whatever undocumented residents could most easily be swept up at court hearings, or by lying in wait at their children’s schools, and so on. (It is, as trade-off, a debatable tactic; it is not immediately clear, for example, how Democrats could enforce the new arrangement if Trump and his underlings decided to ignore it 48 hours after signing the papers, something they would almost certainly try.)
But is Trump willing to make the concession of perhaps not imprisoning as many non-criminal residents in exchange for his own personal obsession, constructing his Racism Wall? Of course not.
Instead he has once again launched a campaign of lies about the issue. A weekend of tweets accused Democrats of not wanting even “to take murderers into custody.” More substantively, Trump’s ICE is refusing to even provide Democrats with numbers on how many of those imprisoned residents are truly dangerous.
Instead, the aide noted, ICE has responded by saying, in essence, that there’s no point in breaking down those detained, because “they’re all dangerous,” as the aide put it. “They want us to believe that people with minor traffic violations are dangerous criminals who should be deported,” the aide says.Democrats are asking the administration to justify their demand for more detention beds, and say they’re getting nothing serious back.
Trump’s new tirade against the tradeoff Republican and Democratic negotiators have come up with suggests that no, he truly isn’t going to accept any limitations on the administration’s other anti-immigrant policies in exchange for wall money. That almost certainly means he’s not going to get that wall money, period, because Democrats have no reason to help Trump climb out of a self-dug hole in exchange for nothing but more Trump bluster and a few extra billion dollars of wasted taxpayer money.
This was the problem before the first shutdown, as well. Reeling from midterm losses and still more indictments of his associates, Trump had no interest in “negotiating” to get his new urgently-needed pet project. He simply demanded it, and refused to sign legislation keeping the government open unless he got it. It didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now. If the man is truly so self-absorbed as to think the entire nation must bend to his will or risk his wrath, he is going to find little patience for such moves now that the House is under the management of non-toadies.
This means Trump is likely to get no wall money at all. And it also means we’re likely to enter a new federal government shutdown until he once again realizes that.