Trump makes immigration compromise difficult

President Trump did some crowing at his State of the Union Address Tuesday about the state of the economy, which is to be expected. The unemployment rate is a very healthy 4.1 percent, while the unemployment rate among black Americans is 6.8 percent, the lowest in the 45 years that the Department of Labor has monitored that number.

The Dow Jones, aside from the recent hiccup, has been setting new high marks weekly. Emboldened by the big cut in the corporate tax rate, several major corporations have announced wage increases and bonuses and, in some cases, expansion plans.

How much credit Trump deserves is debatable. Unemployment had been trending down, and the market growing, through much of President Obama’s term. But if the economy was going in the wrong direction, the incumbent would get the blame, so he should not be faulted for making the case for the good news. It’s what presidents do.

Left unaddressed by President Trump was how the nation makes up for the massive loss in tax revenues tied to the tax cut, which independent observers project will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade. While a cut in the corporate rate was in order, and certainly is playing a part in the economic optimism, the drop from 35 percent to 21 percent was excessive.

Trump also did some chest thumping about his administration’s move to roll back environmental regulations, as well as rules intended to prevent abusive business conduct. Ending a regulation that barred employers from taking some or all of the tips given to service employees, and canceling a rule mandating that financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients, not their own bottom line, are a couple of examples.

Embracing “beautiful coal” and failing to protect the environment will bring about the problems associated with climate change sooner and leave our air and water dirtier. As for what happens when the door is opened to corporate abuse, we’ve heard that song before and not so long ago.

But in the short term, the economy soars and Trump basks.

As for looking for openings for bipartisan cooperation, Trump called for a $1.5 trillion investment in upgrading the nation’s infrastructure. This should be a priority. We’ve said it for a long time. But the revenues lost to the massive tax cut make this more difficult. And Trump left out details how he would pay for it.

There is also a potential opening for the parties to cooperate on immigration reform (though we’ve heard that song before, too). As expected, Trump announced he would be willing to sign legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” those young adults who were brought to this country illegally by parents.

Unfortunately, before Trump opened this path to compromise, he lined it with land mines. In return for Dreamer legislation, Trump wants Democrats to embrace new rules that favor high-skilled workers when allowing entry into the country. Making sure immigration is balanced and the U.S. welcomes some of the best and brightest makes sense, but denying potential immigrants with lower education levels the chance to enter the country and work their way up — as so many immigrants have — is not in keeping with America’s legacy.

The president’s prior comments, dismissing African nations as s-hole countries whose people should not be welcomed, raises serious concerns about Trump’s true motives when it comes to prioritizing entry.

Trump did not help the cause of compromise in misrepresenting problems with current immigration law. The danger and extent of so-called “chain migration” is far more myth than reality. A single immigrant cannot, despite Trump’s claims, “bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” Immigrants face a difficult challenge in trying to bring other family members into the country. Prospective entrants are subjected to lengthy background checks. The backlog is approaching 4 million people. So while the system may be broken, it is not the national danger Trump tries to make of it.

And while border security must be a part of an immigration compromise, building a massive wall remains a needless budget-busting proposal.

If Trump can accept reasonable security steps short of the wall, and Democrats can bend on immigration restrictions as long as there are protections against prejudicial implementation, maybe a deal can be made.

Notably absent from the address was any reference to Russian interference in our elections or the #MeToo movement. His vulnerability on these issues help explain why the president, despite a strong economy, remains so unpopular.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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