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Detained student's crisis proves craziness of immigration system

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- President Trump sees the immigration issue as one big negotiation.

First you do something dramatic to shake things up and put the other side on unsure footing.

A couple days ago, the Trump administration withdrew Temporary Protected Status from about 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants who had been offered shelter by the George W. Bush administration in 2001. According to a Department of Homeland Security statement, they'll have to find a way to obtain a green card, head home or be removed.

Then you gather the interested parties in a room and force them to strike a deal, assuring them that you'll go along with whatever consensus emerges.

On Tuesday, Trump called congressional Republican and Democratic leaders to the White House and laid out his final terms for a deal that would protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from being deported when the program expires on March 5. The president's demands included: funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall; an end to so-called chain migration; and the elimination of the immigrant lottery system, which makes getting into the United States a game of chance. Trump also expressed support for a new system that would amount to affirmative action for immigrants who are well-educated and highly skilled.

The Republicans at the meeting also called for a crackdown on those fabled "sanctuary cities" where the undocumented are supposedly untouchable. That may or may not make it into a final bill, and it's not clear whether it's a deal breaker for the White House.

 

By the way, let's give Trump credit for allowing television cameras into the meeting. For once, double-talking politicians in both parties -- who usually say one thing behind closed doors and another to reporters when the doors open -- had to pick one position and stick to it. You gotta love clarity.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 miles away in California, many people are focused on something more urgent: the fate of a detained college student who happens to be an undocumented immigrant.

Luis Mora was recently apprehended at a border checkpoint while visiting family and friends near San Diego. Soon thereafter, the 20-year-old junior at the University of California, Berkeley -- whose visa expired years ago and who applied for DACA protection but was denied -- was transferred to ICE custody. He awaits deportation to his native Colombia, where he hasn't lived since he was 11.

To a lot of people, this sounds crazy. Why remove someone who identifies more with this country than with where he was born? And does anyone believe that the United States becomes a better, safer place when someone like this is removed?

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