Open-border zealotry only gets us more closed-border bigotry
COMMENTARY Borders matter — which is why immigration liberals who embrace open-border ideology only end up undermining the compassionate cause of migrant rights they claim to champion.
A few weeks ago I was on the phone with a leading migrant labor advocate here in Florida. The subject got around to the temporary agricultural worker visas known as H-2As. They’re the passes that let Latin American and other migrants come and go on a seasonal basis, make good money here and, more important, make better lives back home.
I wondered if the activist thought the H-2A program should be expanded and fine-tuned as part of immigration reform — a means of restoring more orderly method to the madness of America’s ad hoc migrant worker scheme.
Couldn’t a better H-2A, I asked, help ease the border overflow chaos? Could it alleviate the mess U.S. conservatives point to when they bray for the sort of immigration crackdowns that hurt the same migrant workers you profess to protect?
His answer: No, we oppose approaches like the H-2As. We should instead, he insisted, let every undocumented worker in and put them on automatic paths to legal residency and citizenship.
He didn’t explicitly say: We believe in an open border.
But then again, that’s precisely what he said.
And that distinct, reckless impression so many liberals radiate — that they think there should be no red or yellow lights on the U.S.’s southern boundary, just flashing green — is a big reason the immigration issue is a politically deadly millstone hanging around President Biden’s neck.
It helps explain why, in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this week — the same one that shows Biden trailing former President and migrant demonizer-in-chief Donald Trump by 10 points — almost two-thirds disapprove of the President’s handling of immigration, while less than a quarter approve.
It’s given Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy a ticket to tell reporters — with a straight face — that if Biden wants a spending deal by this weekend to avoid a government shutdown, he needs to scrap his purportedly lax immigration policies.
Did liberals learn nothing from the nationwide Bronx cheers that once greeted Democrats' witless proposals to decriminalize illegal immigration?
The perception of border laissez faire has also helped open the door to all the shamefully xenophobic stunts we’re seeing on the right: flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard as political props; placing concertina wire at the Rio Grande; making it a felony to transport undocumented migrants into Florida; the chest-thumping but brain-addled calls in the GOP primary debate to invade Mexico.
But it’s also helped expose the left as rank hypocrites, as Democratic leaders like New York’s mayor and Massachusetts’ governor cry for help amid a flood of undocumented migrants into their progressive bailiwicks — a deluge they didn’t seem to make much of a fuss about when it was Texas and Arizona border towns sounding the same alarms.
It’s as if liberals learned nothing from the nationwide Bronx cheers that greeted Democratic presidential candidates like Julián Castro four years ago, when they made their witless proposals to decriminalize illegal immigration. They were in effect suggesting that national borders, or at least America’s, don’t matter.
They do — because they still represent necessary rule of law. And until immigration liberals who embrace open-border ideology understand that, they’ll only undermine the compassionate cause of migrant rights they claim to champion.
Especially now, when a record level of political and economic train wrecks in Latin America and the Caribbean is disgorging a record level of migrants across the U.S. border.
The open-border bunch will say: This is especially the moment we should be most compassionate. Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we shouldn’t treat those migrants like animals, as Trump and his ilk have done — especially since undocumented labor props up economies like Florida’s. But no, in the sense that America shouldn’t usher migrants in so gratuitously, with the tumultuous consequences we're seeing now, that it leads Trump and his ilk, if and when they take back the White House, to feel justified in treating migrants like animals again.
Take the nuclear meltdown we call the U.S. asylum system. It of course needs vastly more resources and infrastructure, which should be top of the immigration reform agenda. But if the open-gated farce conservatives believe the asylum system has become helps Trump get elected again next year, there won’t be immigration reform — and there’ll be a hell of a lot less asylum.
The open-border zealotry will have just given us more closed-border bigotry.