Donald Trump and Republicans want to build the border wall that he promised during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Democrats want to restore legal protections bestowed by President Barack Obama on some two million young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.
Is there the making of a compromise in those points of partisan conflict, as Trump suggested this week, or are these irreconcilable differences that can be resolved only with victory for one side or the other?
Even the Democratic candidates who seek to fill the seat in Congress being vacated by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez could not agree on that subject during a meeting Wednesday with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board.
One candidate said she would be willing to make the deal. Two others gave a definite no. And two more were noncommittal.
It was an instructive debate that showed how the president has managed to expose divisions in the Democratic ranks as the party weighs principle and political expediency in the face of two looming deadlines.
Coming up first is the Jan. 19 deadline for putting in place a new federal spending plan to be followed closely by a Trump-imposed March 6 expiration date for Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Some Democrats are taking the position they won’t vote for further government spending without resolution of what to do about DACA and the so-called Dreamers who would be put at risk of deportation.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, regarded as the frontrunner after securing Gutierrez’s endorsement, argued the matter will be resolved before the next Congress is sworn in to office, which seemed to be his reasoning for not taking a definitive yes or no position on expanding the border wall.
Garcia said a border wall might take shape as a technology-based “cyber-wall” rather than an actual physical wall, which Trump has previously said he would insist upon.
Garcia did not say whether he could support more funding for a physical wall along the Mexican border if it included protections for Dreamers, suggesting that a bigger deal-breaker for him would be a Republican insistence on curtailing family-based or “chain” migration. Garcia, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, is among millions of immigrants who have benefitted from that policy.
Sol Flores, executive director of La Casa Norte and a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transition team, described herself as a “collaborator” who would be willing to compromise with Republicans on the issue.
“I think the Dreamers are absolutely important and critical, and I would do whatever it takes to have them be here in this country, and if that includes some form of a physical wall, then I would negotiate and collaborate for that,’’ Flores said.
That drew a sharp rebuke from Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st).
“Absolutely not,” he said. “To even have a wall on the table for progressive Democrats is, quite frankly, you’re in the wrong party!”
“Even a discussion about a physical wall, quite frankly, is disgusting to me,” he added. “Of course we want the Dreamers here. We want to protect them. But to trade that off for a permanent wall that would be there for a century perhaps is non-negotiable.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) offered his own “absolutely not” to whether he could support construction of a wall.
“We are on a 21st century planet,” he said. “Most of the individuals who are here undocumented didn’t cross the desert. They got here on an airplane. And we’re not going to build a dome over the airports so why should we build a wall over the southern border of the United States?”
The fifth candidate, Richard Gonzalez, a Chicago police sergeant, said it was “kind of premature” to negotiate over a border wall after a federal judge in San Francisco this week blocked the Trump administration’s move to end DACA.