May 1, 2021 - 9:00 pm
Bruce Springsteen made a cameo appearance in the 2020 presidential election when he narrated an Internet ad for Joe Biden set against the melody of his song “My Hometown.”
The ad was set in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, a city of about 78,000 people in northeast Pennsylvania that was built, as Springsteen noted, on “sweat, grit and determination.” Biden was running for president, the singer said, “to give working people the shot they deserve.” Scranton isn’t just where Biden is from, Springsteen argued, but also “who he is for.”
Now that Biden is president, I think about that ad. What lingers is the kicker: “who he is for.” As a Mexican American, I don’t look like the people of Scranton. In fact, opinion polls and voting patterns show that Americans in that part of the country — and from both parties — would rather keep out brown-skinned people from south of the border.
So the question remains: When it comes to perhaps the most explosive issue on the national agenda, who is Biden for, really? That depends. What day is it?
When Americans elected Biden president, they got two for the price of one.
The old Joe — who goes to bat for white working-class, lunch bucket Democrats in Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — is fluent in the language of those who want the United States to take in fewer migrants and refugees.
The new Joe se habla español and bends under pressure from Latinos and far-left Democrats who see immigrants and refugees as the fuel that can truly make America great again, and so we ought to take in more.
At times, the two Bidens argue.
A humdinger of an argument broke out recently over what the president believes should be the cap on refugees taken in each year by the United States.
In March, U.S. immigration officials apprehended more than 172,000 individuals at the U.S.-Mexico border. Most of them came from Central America — Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, specifically — with hopes of achieving refugee status. On average, only about one in four asylum applicants is successful.
Still, these desperate souls deserve a chance to plead their case. Yet, in many instances, U.S. Border Patrol agents simply turned families around and sent them back into Mexico. In other instances, would-be refugees were released into the United States without a notice to appear before an immigration judge.
The whole situation is chaos, and the blame for that mostly goes to Biden. Last month, Biden got positively Trumpian when — in breaking his own campaign promise to increase the annual refugee cap to 125,000 or more from the pathetically low 15,000 figure set by the 45th president — Biden said the Trump number “remains justified.”
The reaction was swift.
“Completely and utterly unacceptable. Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. “Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong. Keep your promise.”
That left a mark. Within a few hours, the White House signaled that Biden would reverse course yet again and increase the refugee cap to some unspecified number by May 15.
It’s sad that official U.S. policy gets decided based on whom Biden is pandering to and whether they see immigrants as a threat or, as former President George W. Bush recently described them, a “defining asset of the United States.”
Biden thinks he can talk to both groups. But he talks in circles.
As the grandson of a Mexican immigrant who came here during the Mexican Revolution — legally, just like many of your parents and grandparents, because, for the most part, one couldn’t come illegally until after 1924 — I’m with “W” and others who see immigration as an asset.
I’ll go further. The fact is that this country has the transformative ability to take in the world’s throwaways — what the poet Emma Lazarus termed the “wretched refuse” — and magically spin straw into gold.
This is not just the best policy for America. It’s the whole point of America.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.