October 15, 2018

A Liberal’s Plea for a Moderate Immigration Policy

“Recently, my family was mentioned in an article in the Washington Post Magazine about our dear Salvadoran friends, and their struggles associated with the impending wholesale cancellation of Temporary Protected (TPS) status. As the piece details, my friends stand to be kicked out of the country and forced to make the difficult choice of whether to leave their citizen children behind, or subject them to risk-filled futures in an unstable country. They are faced with this terrible decision because of the Trump administration’s policies, which have ranged from arbitrary to cruelly invidious—policies that have left many people rightly outraged.

The answer to this problem though, is not to be found in the growing calls on the Left to “abolish ICE.” The suggestion that we don’t need any border enforcement is as unrealistic as that rhetoric is politically self-defeating. Rather than making practical policy proposals in a sincere effort to solve immigration issues, the loudest voices on both sides of these issues seem content to simply signal purity to their respective bases. This problem is not new. It is a major symptom of the diseased state of our current national politics, and one that seems to have entered a dangerously acute phase in the Trumpist era. It is worth exploring in the case of our current immigration dispute.

On the far-Left, rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez includes abolishing ICE in her official campaign platform. Her intended message seems to be simply that she is a pro-immigrant humanitarian. That signal is no doubt clearly and positively received on the Left. But her absolutism, her failure to acknowledge that immigration may come with real costs, makes her message appear as a call for open borders to many. It is therefore no surprise that the “open borders” trope has become a favorite way for Trump’s base to caricature their opponents.

Meanwhile, Trump, and his imitators and enablers chant “build that wall.” He orders a travel ban from some majority Muslim countries (omitting Saudi Arabia, the primary source of the 9/11 terrorists), cruelly separates babies from their parents at the border and cancels TPS (all while staffing his club in Florida with temporary foreign workers). His purpose is devoid of any attempt to solve the problems presented by immigration or to capitalize on its potential benefits to our economy and culture; rather he is simply signaling that he is for white, red-blooded Americans and against cartoon brown-skinned terrorists, drug runners, criminals and rapists, who want to take American jobs.”

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