One of President Donald Trump’s most effective issues while he was running was illegal immigration. He promised to make a tough stand, building a wall across the southern border, and even painting an apocalyptic vision of sending troops fanning across the country to deport every one of the 11 million of so illegals thought to reside in the United States. But that was then and this is now. Trump, according to Hot Air, has signaled a more moderate approach to illegal immigration.

To be sure, the stick is still there. The wall is going to be built and the Trump administration is busily ferreting out illegals who have committed crimes other than violating the immigration laws.

But he has also suggested that he would like to see a bill that offers a path to legal status for illegals who have not committed any serious crimes. He touched upon the idea briefly during the speech before a joint session of Congress, even while he highlighted some of the victims of criminal illegal aliens.

The shift is a bow toward reality. The logistics, not to mention the optics, of a deportation force would have been mind numbingly horrible. The offer of a path of legality (not citizenship) coupled with more stringent border enforcement could be the solution that is needed for the problem. Trump, whose hard line toward the issue is undoubted, could have executed a Nixon goes to China gambit.

Of course a number of people are going to be unhappy. Immigration hawks are not likely to be pleased at anything that smacks of “amnesty.” Those politicians who offered much the same Compromise as Trump is now, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, are going to be bemused at best, irritated at worse. The president had excoriated Rubio and others for proposing during the campaign what he is now.

Whether Trump’s gambit succeeds or not depends on its execution. President Reagan tried much the same thing in the mid-1980s, only to see the enforcement portion of the deal never materialize. In short, Trump had better build that wall if he wants his attempt at the art of the deal for immigration to work.