In 1986, the Gipper was gotten.
We fear the same thing is about to happen to the Donald.
Thirty-one years ago, President Ronald Reagan signed a well-meaning bill, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, into law. It offered illegal immigrants who had been living in the United States continuously since 1982 a path to citizenship. To gain temporary status, they had to pay $185 and demonstrate "good moral character." After 18 months, if they had learned English, they could become eligible for green cards. In the end, some 2.7 million got them.
What the country was supposed to have gotten in return was new surveillance technology and a bigger staff to secure the Southern border. The bill also was to impose penalties on businesses that knowingly hired or employed illegal immigrants.
A funny thing happened on the way to the enforcement side of the deal, though. With Democrats controlling the House and regaining control of the Senate a year later, it never quite got done.
The penalties on businesses were essentially gutted in order to get tacit support from the business community, and Congress didn't provide enough money to increase the border staff until after Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1994 election. In the meantime, millions more illegal immigrants streamed into the country.
On Wednesday, President Trump was reported to have agreed on a deal with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to give the nearly 800,000 young illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children legal status.
Of course, agreement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) participants all depends on who's talking.
Schumer and Pelosi said a deal had been reached during a working dinner to give the young immigrants, known by sympathizers as "Dreamers," full legal status. In return, they said, they would support more border security but not the wall Trump has discussed building since becoming a presidential candidate in 2015.
However, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disputed the Democrats' version of events Wednesday, and deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said Thursday "there was no deal, and they know that."
On Wednesday, Trump said he would insist on "massive border controls" as part of the deal, but on Thursday, he said he wouldn't insist on the border wall being part of the deal but vowed it "will come later."
The president also said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are behind him. That support doesn't go for the entire party, though.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said if reports of the deal were true, "no promise [by the president] is credible," and his base is "blown up, destroyed, irreparable and disillusioned beyond repair."
Trump, who said during the campaign there would be no amnesty for the young people, many of whom have now grown up and gotten jobs, tweeted Thursday that nobody wants "to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people" who "have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own."
Schumer, the president's new trading partner, on Thursday called the idea of a wall "a medieval solution for a modern problem, a 'Game of Thrones' idea for a world that is a lot closer to 'Star Wars.'" He said Democrats, instead, were for "sensible border security."
Trump should understand what Reagan apparently didn't, but should have. Democrats don't want "border security" now, and they didn't then. They realized then and they realize now that illegal immigrants made "legal" and wrapped in loads of government benefits championed by Democrats will become Democratic voters. They'll agree to whatever's necessary now to get the "Dreamers" legalized, then water down any enforcement measures.
Unfortunately, Schumer and Pelosi were able to catch the president when he wanted a win. A replacement for the Affordable Care Act has not been passed, a sensible tax reform package has not taken wing, and a temporary travel ban has been battered in courts.
Trump agreed with the two Democrats last week on a short-term extension on government spending and borrowing authority and heard praise for it. And if this president likes anything, it's praise.
A DACA deal, once done, would give him more.
And, said one Republican, he may as well deal with Democrats. Republicans are too divided.
"People that say, well Congress, why is it acting this way, and why can't the speaker stop this?" U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., said on MSNBC. "I have a little news flash for everyone. We don't have a governing majority in Congress.
"We don't have 218 reliable Republican votes in the House the speaker can count on, and we don't have 60 senators in the Senate," he said.
As long as he gives them what they want, then, Democrats will deal with Trump for four years and praise him when they do. But it might do him good to look back at Reagan and see how much reform and control his Immigration Reform and Control Act had once Democrats got through with it.