IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lack of progress tests the limits of Trump's immigration strategy

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Central American migrants traveling with a caravan rest on a road between Metapa and Tapachula in Mexico on April 12, 2019.
Central American migrants traveling with a caravan rest on a road between Metapa and Tapachula in Mexico on April 12, 2019.Pep Companys / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In the Trump era, there's been a tendency to think about immigration policy as a political football. A cudgel. A weapon.

The president has certainly treated it as such. Just look at his latest proposal to transport undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities as political retribution to Democrats — and his suggestion that his immigration opponents are "treasonous."

But if you look at immigration instead as a problem to be solved — more like health care — it may be a much better way to understand the long-term political risks of using the immigration issue to divide the electorate.

Trump and the GOP have hammered away at an immigration status quo they say doesn't work. But Trump's proposals to fix it have been politically unviable (the wall), legally untenable (denying the right to seek asylum), economically risky (closing the border), or the cause of public moral outrage (family separation.)

So, Trump has mostly been left with grievances. And griping about a system that doesn't work can only get you so far politically.

Just look at what happened with health care.

Republicans had great success in the 2010 and 2014 midterms picking apart Obamacare's flaws. But by 2018, Democrats clobbered them by running as the party that would fix the problems, after Republicans failed to come up with a workable alternative.

Sure, immigration is the defining issue for much of Trump's base. And there's certainly a chunk of his voters who will always stick with him on the grievances alone.

But in the middle of the electorate, voters — especially independents — are going to want to see progress.

And they're likely to reward candidates who seem to be taking solutions seriously.

New Barr ruling withholds bail for asylum seekers

Speaking of immigration policy, here's the latest from NBC's Julia Ainsley and Doha Madani on a new decision from AG William Barr:

"In his decision, Barr said that asylum seekers who begin in expedited removal, in which they are not given the right to see a judge, and are then transferred to full removal proceedings, in which they wait to make their case before a judge, should not be released on bond."

More: "It means that thousands of asylum seekers who once would have been out on bond and living in the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their status will now be kept in detention centers, where the wait times are climbing from months to a year."

2020 Vision: Sanders catches Trump's eye on Fox News

Trump is trying his hand at some 2020 punditry again after Bernie Sanders participated in a Fox News town hall Monday.

The president tweeted about Sanders' appearance and speculated that the Democratic race will come down to "Crazy Bernie Sanders and Sleepy Joe Biden."

Sanders took some heat from the left for going on Fox – particularly after the DNC rejected the network as a Democratic primary debate host because of its "inappropriate relationship" with Trump.

But he's at least shown that an appearance on Trump's favored news outlet is a good way to get in the president's head.

By the way, NBC's Josh Lederman reports that Pete Buttigieg is in talks with Fox to do a town hall, too.

On the campaign trail today

Beto O'Rourke continues his trip in Virginia ... Pete Buttigieg and Kirsten Gillibrand are both in Iowa ... Amy Klobuchar talks infrastructure in Nashville ... Cory Booker holds an event on Voting Rights and Reproductive Justice in Atlanta ... Elizabeth Warren is in Salt Lake City, Utah... and Bill Weld campaigns in New Hampshire.

Tweet of the Day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $572,516


That’s how much Amy Klobuchar raised for the general election during the first fundraising quarter.

Candidates are allowed to begin to stockpile general election money while running in a primary, but they can’t use any of it until and unless they win the primary.

And if they lose, they have to either refund the money or ask their donors to redesignate the dollars for a future race.

Even so, that money gets caught up in the top-line fundraising numbers. (That’s why it’s worth taking a deeper dive into the reports, once they’re released, to get a more complete picture.)

The general election designation for that chunk of change means that 10 percent of Klobuchar's reported $5.2 million first-quarter haul isn't available for her to spend unless she wins the primary.

The New York Times' Shane Goldmacher also points out that when Beto O'Rourke's campaign announced they edged out Bernie Sanders for the most raised on a candidate's launch day, they hit that record by counting $300,000 in general-election dollars.

By the way, if next-level fundraising statistics like these interest you, read our deeper fundraising dive on the MTP Blog.

The Lid: Roll Tide

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the potential reemergence of Roy Moore in Alabama.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

The president is filling his free time before the release of the Mueller report commenting on television and the news of the day.

President Trump has vetoed a bill meant to end American military assistance to Saudi Arabian fighting in Yemen.

The New York Times has a talker on how anti-Sanders Democrats are worried he can’t be stopped.

Other news that's out there...

Trump agenda: Trump v. Congress, again

Politico reports that House Judiciary Democrats are looking into the report that President Trump offered to pardon his CBP commissioner if he broke immigration law.

The White House is setting up for a clash with Congress over document requests.

2020: Trump plans Badger State trip

Endangered Republican senators are stockpiling cash ahead of 2020 too.

President Trump will hold a rally in Wisconsin on the same night as the White House correspondents’ dinner.

Kirsten Gillibrand is endorsing the Democrat challenging incumbent Illinois Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski.

The Daily Beast reports “not a single human being” donated to indicted New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins’ re-election last quarter.