It's possible that this is what appeals to Trump about an immigration compromise. Much like peace in the Middle East, it's something presidents have tried and failed to do in the past, so if he could succeed with it, his fame would be assured forevermore.
There's just one small problem: Past presidents haven't succeeded at achieving peace in the Middle East, or winning a compromise on immigration reform, because they are hard issues that people have been unable to solve even if they tried very hard. And it's not at all clear that President Trump is willing to work hard to make his dreams come true.
It's not exactly like Trump has managed to bend Congress to his will so far. His stated legislative priority — repealing and replacing Obamacare — is floundering so badly that his administration wasn't willing to endorse any of the existing proposals in Tuesday's speech (they didn't want to back a loser). Tax reform is on shaky ground at best. Even filling political appointments has been a slow process (less because Congress is holding up the process than because the White House isn't producing nominees).
These factors would make any proposal tricky, even the president's hoped-for infrastructure package. But on immigration, Trump wouldn't just have to fight Congress and win — he'd have to fight his own White House.
The two most influential officials in the administration right now, when it comes to immigration policy, are chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller. They're the ones who (according to all available accounts) wrote the executive order that broadens deportation "priorities" to target unauthorized immigrants who haven't committed serious crimes, as well as Trump's other executive orders on immigration. They're the ones pushing for a broader crackdown on legal immigration. And they really, really don't believe in amnesty — or compromise.
Simply expressing a dream of an immigration compromise isn't going to spur members of Congress to get to work on a broad bipartisan bill. Actual pressure — White House visits, policy outlines, the sort of things presidents do when they are leaning on Congress to pass their agendas — might. But to do that, Trump would have to go around Bannon and Miller.
Right now, it's not even clear that he could.
President Trump, you see, doesn't appear to be capable of talking honestly about the reality of his immigration policy. He asserts that the US didn't even have a border before his inauguration, in defiance of anything resembling reality. He insists that he's only getting out serious criminals and "bad hombres," despite the fact that his executive order ended a period where immigration agents were instructed to do just that.
The bigger the disconnect between what Trump is saying and what his administration is doing, the harder it is to believe that he's really the one in the driver's seat when it comes to immigration policy. And that makes it all the more unlikely that he'll be able to offer anything more to the push for a "compromise" than a few encouraging words.
Commentary by Dara Lind, immigration and criminal justice reporter at Vox. Follow her on Twitter @DLind.
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