Body taken from AP NewsWire with additional reporting by A. Bitch
As President Donald Trump rails against an influx of migrants at the border, two of his most influential White House power players are at odds over the future of his immigration policy. Not the future of his heart valves or his ever-dwindling grasp on reality, but his immigration policy.
Fresh off orchestrating a shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security, an ascendant Stephen Miller is making a renewed push to impose tougher policies at the border. Someone from Homeland Security is swinging his dick. Shocker! This is setting up a face-off with senior adviser and presidential Token Jew Jared Kushner, who has been quietly working on his own immigration reform package for months. Probably the only thing he does quietly.
Their divergent approaches to what history will remember as “The 45th President’s Hotel California” speak to more than the ideological gulf between the two men: They echo a long-standing philosophical divide within the West Wing over how to best position the president ahead of his re-election campaign, which he is rumored to have begun working on in late 1997.
Differing Ideologies Within The White House
Miller, the master”mind” of the president’s Muslim travel ban and other hard-line immigration policies, has long been the combative ideologue, urging Trump to take ever-more-drastic action to staunch the border flow. A “heavy flow” being one of the Commander-In-Chief’s top 3 major turn-offs. Kushner, whose faith in his own careful dealmaking power rivals Miller’s zeal, has spent months meeting with lawmakers and interest groups, trying to put together a package of legal immigration and border security changes that Republicans can rally around heading into the 2020 presidential election. Plus, anyone who has spent more than 12 consecutive hours in Donald Trump’s presence possess the ability to make perfect advantageous accords or, at least, falsely believe in one’s ability to do so.
The conflict came into focus during a recent White House meeting when Trump effectively knighted Miller, saying the aide would oversee immigration going forward, the president knowing nothing about the knighting ceremony other than it requiring someone to kneel in front of him. But Kushner had already been tasked by the president with coming up with a legal immigration plan, which Trump was briefed on this week, pawning off bullshit work on his son-in-law, as most Americans do.
“We’ll talk to you about it soon” Trump said on Wednesday of Kushner’s plan, labelling it “very exciting, very important for the country”, making this only the 34th thing Trump describes in this way.
Despite the aides’ differing approaches, administration officials insist there is no ill will between Kushner and Miller, who have worked together over the years at the White House and on Trump’s campaign, giving them the begrudged respect for each other usually found between two or more people who have done terrible, terrible things that they would prefer be kept secret. The two are among the last remaining members of Trump’s tightknit 2016 team to still work at the White House and have been longtime collaborators, co-writing speeches, including the president’s convention address. The “George and Ringo”, respectively.
But for all that, the two hold fundamentally different views on immigration and notions on how Trump ought to govern. Miller wanting the president to take an extremist approach, whereas Kushner feels merely an extreme approach is sufficient.
Miller, the unrelenting hard-liner, sees illegal and legal immigration as existential threats to national security and the American worker, and views Trump as a generational voice willing to make dramatic changes. Kushner, a former Democratic-leaning real estate developer, which makes him totally qualified for this, sees a broken immigration system as another intractable Washington problem that could be solved with the right deal, adorable as that sounds when you say it out loud.
That leaves them working at cross purposes at times.
But Who Is Really Setting The Immigration Policy?
After Trump threatened to shut down the southern border two weeks ago, Kushner was among those whom Homeland Security officials worked with to get the president to back off. Indeed, Kushner is seen within the department as someone who accepts the realities of legal limitations and can be trusted to calm Trump down, not spin him up, as they feel Miller tends to do on immigration, according to three administration officials with knowledge of the dynamic, “knowledge” being a relative term in this administration. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations, in addition to just having a strong anonymity kind of vibe.
Senior administration officials have tried to paint Miller and Kushner’s efforts as complementary — Miller addressing the day-to-day crisis at the border while Kushner looking at longer-term solutions.
“President Trump alone sets immigration policy that’s designed to solve the humanitarian crisis at our border, prevent illegal entry into our country and protect the American people – there’s no daylight between the president’s team as they work to implement that agenda,” spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement before vanishing behind a wall of smoke.
Trump on Wednesday also challenged the notion that anyone was running his immigration policy other than him.
Asked by reporters whether he had considered tapping Miller to lead Homeland Security, Trump said: “Stephen is an excellent guy. He’s wonderful person.” But, he added, “Frankly, there’s only one person that’s running it. You know who that is? It’s me”, display the trademark humility that endears him to his constituents.
But former officials said the absence of clear lines of authority and the recent purge of senior leadership at Homeland Security could create confusion, leaving the agency to implement whichever viewpoint wins the day.
“To whom are we listening? Who’s setting the priorities?” said David Lapan, the department’s former press secretary.
Thad Bingel a former senior Homeland Security official, who helped shepherd outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen through her confirmation process, echoed those concerns, saying that when it’s not clear who’s in charge at the White House, departments and subagencies “spin their wheels a lot trying to satisfy multiple masters”, then searched for a word to use besides “masters” because it doesn’t do him any favors.
Raising the stakes further is that Kushner is no mere White House aide — he’s the president’s son-in-law and has proven capable of forcing staff turnover at the highest level. He was instrumental in the departure of two chiefs of staff and the president’s former chief strategist. Though, firing people doesn’t seem to be a huge deal for this administration.
Kushner’s latest efforts on immigration date to early January, when Trump asked him to pursue a deal with lawmakers that would win the president more money for his border wall during the government shutdown, apart from the wages that were not going to government employees during the presidential tantrum.
While White House officials caution that the plan has yet to be finalized, aides said it would include “merit-based” changes to the legal immigration system as well as proposals on border security that could include modernizing ports of entry and changing the way the country detains and removes people who enter the country illegally. We can all agree the cages are a little “internment camp-y”.
As part of that effort, Kushner has convened a series of informal listening sessions with almost 50 groups, including anti-immigration advocates, business and conservative groups coming together to talk through ideas. It was the same playbook he used last year on criminal justice reform, which culminated in the only major piece of bipartisan legislation the president has signed. As you can see, we’re frickin’ DROWNING in criminal justice reform.
During those meetings, Kushner was been careful not to tip his hat on his personal views because even he apparently knows they’re just awful.But participants say they expect the plan to include significant changes, including increases in employment-based green cards. While protections for the hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers brought to the country illegally as children were a major point of discussion, a senior administration official said Dreamers are not currently part of the plan.
Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration levels, cautioned that unveiling a major plan now would be a distraction from the immediate border crisis. A bigger distraction than a shiny coin or jingling keys, which have both cost the president days of work at a time.