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With Congressional negotiators still racing to reach a deal, it’s unclear whether or not they’ll be able to reach the immigration and border security policy compromise needed to avoid the second partial federal government shutdown in two months. What’s completely clear, however, is that although President Trump declared that he “owned” the first shutdown, Congressional Democrats will deserve the blame this time.

The reason? In recent days, they’ve removed any doubt that their position has nothing to do with their stated belief that border walls are “immoral,” or even that President Trump’s focus on new barriers of any kind is hopelessly out of date. Instead, these Democrats – or at least their leaders – have now disclosed that their real price is a big step toward gutting any meaningful enforcement of immigration law.

Skeptics obviously haven’t paid attention to the course of Congressional negotiations since Friday. At that point, both Republicans and Democrats were expressing guarded optimism that a deal was in sight that involved keeping the entire federal government open in exchange for including actual funding (i.e., appropriations), for more barriers in the Department or Homeland Security (DHS) budget for the current fiscal year – not the kind of unenforceable promise to authorize certain levels of spending over the course of man years that marked previous recent efforts to keep the whole government open.

Hopes for a deal aren’t dead yet, but over the weekend, the Democrats dealt them a major setback by moving the goalposts. Their major new demand was for an unrealistically low (given the great recent increase in would-be border crossers of all kinds) limit in the number of beds maintained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to detain individuals arrested for violations of immigration law.

Congressional Democrats described their stance as an effort to impose sanity on the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement priorities. In the words of California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, “A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country.”

But no one can seriously doubt that crippling immigration enforcement is the real objective. In the first place, although it’s tempting – at least for argument’s sake – the critics’ charges that the Trump enforcement dragnet is too broad, let’s not forget that a key demand of many Democrats in recent months has not been to reform ICE practices, but to abolish the agency.

Second, there’s every reason to view the Democrats’ definition of “criminals” and “real security threats” as far too narrow. For example, many U.S. illegal aliens who hold a job are committing identity fraud in one form or another – including theft of Social Security cards. Critics of strict enforcement of immigration law tend to belittle these violations, and if you agree, that’s your right – but please spare me your complaints the next time you’re victimized by identity theft, or  become upset that constantly rising Social Security outlays are fueling the national debt.

Moreover, closet Open Borders supporters have a long record of defining down below the “serious” level many crimes that physically harm or endanger individuals – including assault, battery, sex offenses, drunk driving, and gun-related crimes.

And these coddlers of illegal alien crimes aren’t restricted to the Mainstream Media. In Montgomery County, Maryland – a suburb of Washington, D.C. – lawmakers introduced a measure to provide taxpayer-funded legal aid to illegal aliens that originally would have extended such assistance to illegals convicted of offenses such as “fraud, distribution of heroin, second- and third-degree burglary and obstruction of justice….” And let’s not forget the indulgent attitudes and practice of the nation’s many sanctuary jurisdictions.

What the Democrats pushing for fewer beds really want is a de facto (at least at first) U.S. immigration policy that prioritizes maximizing the numbers of foreign migrants able to set foot on U.S. soil, to thereby avail themselves of the wide range of due process protections afforded to anyone within this country’s territorial limits, and to then be released shortly after their initial apprehension.

As a result, these migrants – including declared asylum seekers and would-be refugees – will be completely free to skip their scheduled status hearings, and to become eligible for whatever future amnesties the Open Borders crowd has in mind once it regains enough power in Washington.

Of course, it’s one thing to make the case on the merits that the Democrats will own this shutdown. It’s another entirely for Mr. Trump to convince the public. Making this sale could represent his biggest challenge yet as President.