May 30, 2023 - 9:00 pm
The myth persists that Democrats are defenders of immigrants, lenient on border enforcement and eager to welcome thousands of newcomers crossing from Mexico, so they can turn them into Democratic voters.
Not a word of that is true. Yet such falsehoods endure because they are advanced by both parties.
Republicans push the lies so they can paint Democrats as maintaining an “open border” that endangers all Americans. Meanwhile, to portray themselves as champions of the downtrodden, Democrats keep quiet and don’t dispute the accusations — until their poll numbers take such a beating that they need to set the record straight.
So everyone plays this silly game. And much of the public is fooled.
Recently, when I pointed out that Republicans have contributed to the current crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, an angry reader took exception, blaming the debacle entirely on President Joe Biden. “What world are you living in?” the reader asked. “Our Democrat president did not want Trump’s border wall and anything that Trump implemented, Biden overturned.”
This is a cautionary tale of what happens when people get all their information from Fox News or right-wing talk radio. They come away not just misinformed but confused.
Here’s the truth: Neither of the major political parties cares a whit about immigrants — especially if they are poor, uneducated and brown-skinned. That’s true even if the immigrants come legally, wait in line and play by the rules.
By the way, rule-following is such a quaint concept these days. If the desired outcome is politically expedient, we’ll just change the rules — even in the middle of the game.
That’s what the Biden administration is doing now. Desperate families fled countries such as Haiti, Honduras and Venezuela and traveled as much as 1,500 miles to the U.S.-Mexico border on the promise that America welcomes the “huddled masses.” This so-called nation of immigrants should at least let these people make their case for asylum. But like the two presidents before him — Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Donald Trump — Biden is denying asylum seekers a hearing, a practice that human rights lawyers insist violates the law. Instead, they are deported.
Never mind the inconvenient fact that — despite ignorant right-wing rhetoric about how these people are “illegal” — the act of seeking asylum is totally legal.
Democrats must think they’re so clever. They campaign as a kinder and gentler alternative to coldhearted Republicans. Yet, once in office, they drop the hammer — by cracking down on the border and ramping up deportations.
Biden and his administration deserve plenty of blame — not for creating the border crisis, as Republicans falsely claim, but for the clumsy way the executive branch has handled U.S. immigration policy since Biden took office.
The Biden immigration failures include:
■ Maintaining the Trump policy of using Title 42 as a public health pretext for keeping out migrants and refugees.
■ Expanding Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy to include Haitians and repairing Trump’s border fence, all in contrast with Biden campaign promises.
■ Targeting specific countries for stricter scrutiny, limiting the number of Nicaraguans, Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans admitted to the United States.
■ Creating new restrictions on asylum that all but eliminate refugee status by requiring asylum seekers to apply from their home countries and seek refuge elsewhere, which led the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the administration.
■ Ignoring evidence that migrant kids in government holding facilities that are supposed to be supervised by the Department of Health and Human Services have, according to The New York Times, ended up being trafficked for cheap labor on farms and in factories. At the very least, HHS was an absentee caretaker of children in its custody.
■ And finally, in a horrific episode recently uncovered by The Associated Press, appearing to contribute to the death of a girl from Honduras who was held with her family in Border Patrol custody for at least eight days when the agency’s policy prohibits detentions longer than 72 hours. Eight-year-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez — who officials said crossed the border into Texas on May 9 with her parents and siblings — died in Border Patrol custody on May 17. Her mother said authorities repeatedly ignored her pleas that her child be transported to a hospital.
What an atrocious record on such an important issue. Now that Biden has kicked off his re-election bid, Democrats have a choice to make: They can be pro-Biden or pro-immigrant. But, given all that has gone wrong, they can’t be both.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.