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The odds are still against a deal to legalize DACA

- January 23, 2018

As part of the agreement to end the government shutdown, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell promised action on immigration. A major question is whether this will create new protections from deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.

These immigrants — a.k.a. “dreamers” — had been protected by President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Trump ended in September. At that point, my colleague Sarah Binder ran through the challenges facing DACA renewal.

Imagine this is the question you now have to answer: “Before April 1, will President Trump sign legislation protecting DACA participants from deportation?” What chance would you give that? Zero percent (it will never happen)? One hundred percent (it will surely happen)? Fifty percent (it’s a toss-up)? Or something else?

Since Oct. 20, 2017, hundreds of forecasters have answered that question as part of our State of the Union forecasting tournament, which is being conducted in partnership with Good Judgment. Here’s what they believe:

The graph above gives the chance that there’s no deal by April 1. Initially, that was the most likely outcome: a 66 percent chance. Then the forecasters became even more pessimistic about DACA renewal.

The more recent trend, however, was in the opposite direction: increased confidence that a deal could be struck by April 1. But not that much confidence. At the moment, the estimated chance of no deal seems to have stabilized around 65 to 67 percent. Notably, Trump’s “s‑‑‑hole” remark did not seem to change the long-term forecast, even as it roiled politics here and abroad. As of Monday, the forecast was almost exactly where it was in October.

This suggests that a deal is less likely rather than more likely. But a 33 percent chance is real nevertheless. When the best major-league hitters get to the plate, 33 percent is the chance of a hit.

Of course, any deal depends a lot on the details, and forecasters currently see a deal that does not protect all the original DACA recipients as more likely than one that does.

This forecast illustrates the hurdles facing the DACA program. It’s a program that the vast majority of Americans support. But that doesn’t mean it’s one Congress and the president can agree on.