The morning after it became clear that his healthcare bill could not pass the Senate, President Trump took to Twitter to vow “we will return.” That would be unwise. Polling data shows that the GOP healthcare effort was the least popular bill put forward in three decades. The collapse of the repeal and replace effort on healthcare leaves the President with no major legislative victories despite having unified GOP control over the executive branch and both houses of Congress. Worse, the presidency is embroiled in an ever-worsening Russian entanglement story, the latest revelation being that contrary to prior denials of any campaign contacts, his son, son-in-law, and campaign manager took a meeting intending to get Russian intelligence that had been put together as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.
With high profile legislative flops and nonstop devastating news cycles about Russian entanglements, the presidency is foundering. In need of something big to change the narrative, there’s one opportunity that would confound critics and put a major victory on the board with a “Nixon goes to China” moment for President Trump: Immigration Reform.
Despite his usual heated rhetoric and the enforcement-only approach up to this point, President Trump has at times signaled openness to the legalization of nonviolent undocumented immigrants. As recently as February 2017, he reportedly told senators that they should revive their efforts at the 2013 immigration reform bill that passed the Senate and died in the House. And though his support for immigration reform would undoubtedly upset some of his core supporters, he could point to his enforcement efforts leading to a 17 year low in illegal border crossings. The border being as secure as it has been in decades, he could explain that it is time to fix the immigration system his press office has conceded is “broken” and in need of “massive reform.” The President’s unexpected and active support of a bill that would provide increased resources for the border, legalize nonviolent undocumented immigrants, provide a path to citizenship for DREAMers, and require mandatory use of E-verify by employers to stop future unauthorized work would propel it through both houses with broad bipartisan support. What he loses by upsetting some of his base will be more than compensated by the changed narrative and for the accomplishment that eluded both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The Trump presidency is in danger and he needs a game changer. Immigration reform presents the biggest and most attainable “win” for him and also happens to be something the country has needed for decades.