Monday, January 29, 2018

Re-Thinking Immigration for Pro-immigration Progressives

Democrats are appalled by Trump.   He has blinded them to their own values and political self interest.

Time for Democrats to re-think their immigration message.   Open our minds.

Trump rode the immigration issue into the White House, saying Mexico sends its drugs, its criminals, its rapists; Asians take our jobs; black immigrants live in shit holes and bring AIDS.

There is a huge opportunity here to do the right thing, to do something popular, and to weaken Trump.  


What is so terrible about a border wall?    It is a waste of money.  Yes.  So what?  A lot of people want it, and this is a democracy, and if they think it makes them safer, let them spend money the way they want. The wall would be a token in border enforcement.  There are millions of legal crossings a day, with people going back and forth to work and trading goods and services.  At best the wall will be a partial impediment to illegal immigration but it is a symbol, and that is enough.

Think of it as a monument, like the Washington Monument or the St. Louis Arch.  

A $36 billion symbol, not a weapon
Much of our Defense Department spending is symbolic. The program cost for one additional aircraft carrier of the Gerald Ford Class, is some $36 billion dollars.  In an actual shooting war an aircraft carrier is a sitting duck with a life expectancy of ten minutes before being destroyed from a missile from space. The aircraft carrier is a bluff, not a weapon. 

Wall or aircraft carrier, a Democrat can recognize it as just another weapon system boondoggle with a constituency group, no more, no less.  There is no principle involved.  

Democrats should use it as a bargaining chip.

Give Trump his wall, and extract a price.  Democrats who favor immigration (as I do) should get a resolution of the DACA citizenship status and a broader comprehensive resolution of immigration policy.  Trump attacks "chain migration" (i.e. bring in family members) as opposed to "merit based" migration.  The implication from Trump is that we can change the mix of immigrants to more from Norway and fewer from "less desirable" countries, but as a practical matter this will work the other direction since we can fill the available spaces with immigrants from Africa and Asia with college degrees. The parties have switched on the issue of which is the more morally correct immigration policy--family unification or education. Is this really a matter of principle and morality,, whether priority is given to the unskilled younger brother of an immigrant from the Philippians, or a registered nurse from the Philippians without family here.

If Trump thinks he "won" by favoring the registered nurse, and Democrats get comprehensive immigration reform out of the deal, Democrats should call it good.  "Family unification" vs. "merit based" is not a matter of principle; it is an arbitrary rule, helping some, hurting others.  Let Trump have his way and, again, extract a price.
This concerns some people.

Immigration is an issue important to lots of Americans.  Voters were open to a right wing populist demagogue because the number of immigrants in America is approaching the high point of immigration of the 1890-1910 era (when my grandparents came here from Greece) and the public is concerned about changing demographics. 

Trump successfully politicized those concerns, winning Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida--states that had voted for Obama.  Democrats need to face that reality. Democrats took the position of calling those concerns racist, by objecting to anything-Trump, and put themselves in the position where Trump could set up a weak straw man to attack, saying Democrats want "unchecked illegal immigration." Democrats can dampen those concerns by making clear that they, too, want secure borders and immigration rules enforced.  

Controlled borders do not stifle immigration.  They enable it.  It is the progressive, pro-immigration point of view because it creates the legal and political environment to calm populist fears of "uncontrolled immigration" and the loss of our national character.

Meanwhile, the border wall will take years to build, there will be multiple news stories of problems, eminent domain issues, contractor disputes, cost overruns, and the fact that we, not Mexico, are paying for it.  It will be an albatross for Trump.  Trump's folly. Give him rope to hang himself.

There is a progressive argument for rules and for consenting to the border wall.  There is an opportunity for a Democratic candidate for Congress in the mountain west to show that he or she understands and addresses an issue that motivated voters in that District.   They don't want uncontrolled immigration?  Neither does that candidate. 

Which candidate will step up?
Bottom line:  a progressive candidate can take the morally correct position that actually enables immigration, Trump will look foolish, and a Democratic candidate can have strong progressive appeal to voters in a rural district.



Rick Millward said...

Yes the wall is symbolic, but no matter how problematic and expensive it will be seen as a win for Regressives. A win for racists, among other things and disastrous to Democrats.

This rationalization is lurking around the edges of the debate. Spending for useless walls and aircraft carriers is not consistent with Progressive priorities, and should not be a subject for compromise. The current situation is tantamount to negotiating with terrorists. It's potentially tragic for the DACA children, but it's far better to go down fighting and I believe the Republicans, if faced with the consequences, will blink. Clean DACA &*($# wall.

Judy Brown said...

We need to repeat often that we do not favor letting felons & gang members stay in the country.....they definitely need to be returned to where they came from, but we are not so heartless as to separate families and to deport our neighbors and friends. We are Christians who believe in families and the importance of family.