Many conservatives pundits and lawmakers were incensed that President Donald Trump appeared to make a deal with Democrats to enshrine into law the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields many undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children. To make matters worse for immigration hawks, Trump is also not requiring funding to build a wall along the Mexican border as a condition of the possible deal.
For Trump, who campaigned in favor of the border wall and for ending the DACA program, his reversal is a major test of the so-called Fifth Avenue principle he gave during the election.
“They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. It’s like incredible,” said Trump during a campaign stop in Sioux Center, Iowa in January 2016.
If the reaction of those at a gathering of social conservatives in Iowa over the weekend is any guide, Trump’s voters are sticking with him and not immigration opponents such as U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who tweeted last week that if a deal is struck, “Trump’s base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable and disillusioned beyond repair.”
“I don’t think it’ll break up the base because I think those that are be behind [Trump] will be behind him permanently,” said Dick Gabriel, a retired education administrator from Indianola, Iowa, one of hundreds who gathered Saturday night for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Fall Family Banquet in Des Moines.
Gabriel said he didn’t have strong feelings about DACA, but he said Trump deserves credit for reducing illegal border crossings considerably even if the wall hasn’t been built. “The idea of the wall is to reduce illegal immigration and he hasn’t even put up a wall and look how much it has been reduced.”
Trump says he plans to continue pushing to build the wall.
Over a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cookies, the attendees heard from Iowa’s top elected Republicans, including King, who didn’t directly criticize Trump but alluded to the DACA issue.
“We just elected a president and things are working along with some degree of significant success and some degree of frustration,” said King.
None of the Republicans who spoke on-stage, which included both U.S. Senators and the governor, addressed DACA.
To the extent banquet-goers praised Trump for talking to Democrats and said they were frustrated with congressional Republicans.
“He’s possibly able to get more done with Democrats, if that happens maybe we’re getting more independent perhaps,” said John Kerber of Johnston, Iowa.
Trump’s decision to not insist on funding for the wall as a condition of any deal wasn’t seen as a betrayal to Kelsey Bayliss, a pharmacist from Wellman, Iowa.
“I think the wall itself will be built. I think it is good to work with Democrats with regards to DACA, I think there’s a mutual agreement on everything. And we need to forget who’s Republican and we need to forget who’s Democrat and work for the better of the country.
Her husband, Austin, chimed in that after months of working with Republicans, Trump is finally getting a chance to use his famed negotiating skills.
“I think this is the beginning of the art of the deal and it’s about time.”
Trump won Iowa by nearly ten points last November, the biggest Republican victory in the swing state since 1980.
“We will absolutely stand behind President Donald Trump,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann from the podium. “He is our president and we are proud of him as the Republican Party of Iowa. Period!”
The crowd applauded and some even gave Kaufmann’s pledge a standing ovation.