This feels like a Republican debating point come to life. You can imagine Trump saying, “Democrats have moved so far left on immigration, even the Obama people would be shocked!”
But it’s not a hypothetical. The Obama people, specifically the head of Homeland Security under O, are actually shocked at how nutty their party has become on this issue in just a few years.
This is the curse of both sides now, it seems — to lament the radicalism of the current administration when the other party’s in charge, only to find afterward that the next administration is prepared to go much further.
[S]ome Democrats are questioning the basic legal underpinnings of U.S. immigration enforcement and challenging the long-held consensus that a robust detention and deportation system is necessary to prevent an even bigger wave of illegal border crossings into the United States.
On Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he would “virtually eliminate immigration detention” by executive order. During last week’s debate, presidential candidate Julián Castro proposed decriminalizing illegal border crossings — a position other Democrats in the race rapidly adopted…
“That is tantamount to declaring publicly that we have open borders,” said Jeh Johnson, who ran the Department of Homeland Security during President Barack Obama’s second term. “That is unworkable, unwise and does not have the support of a majority of American people or the Congress, and if we had such a policy, instead of 100,000 apprehensions a month, it will be multiples of that.”
That’s the point, Jeh. That is literally the goal of the do-nothing-complain-loudly approach to funding immigration enforcement and reforming asylum laws. Although I don’t think lefties are imagining hundreds of thousands of apprehensions per month; rather, they’re imagining the system becoming so stressed that Trump and DHS have no choice but to resort to catch-and-release in toto. That’s not me indulging in a partisan hyperbolic worst-case scenario of what happens if the dastardly opposing party gets its way. To all appearances, this really is what progressives, at least, have in mind: Since they lack the numbers to pass a law that would formally open America’s borders to whoever wants to come, they’ll focus on undermining and overloading border enforcement to whatever extent they can so that we end up with open borders de facto, just not de jure.
And because Democratic presidential candidates are terrified of being seen as impure on this issue among the minority of the party that sets its ideological litmus tests, they have to play along. For Castro, this is a candidacy-making issue. He can’t compete with Bernie or Warren on economic populism, he can’t top Biden on perceived “electability,” but he can at least try to set the pace on immigration. Booker seems to be trying to play the same game. He’s struggled to find a logic for his campaign, starting with a weird “fight hate with love” message, then trying to pick a fight with Biden on his racial record only to find himself outdone by Harris. So now he’s pandering to open-borders nuts. Apart from the Biden/Harris exchange, the single most stunning moment of the first debate was the entire field on night two raising their hands in unison when asked if their universal health care plan would cover illegal immigrants. That’s a policy so radical, notes Philip Klein, that even many of our statist betters abroad don’t countenance it:
The Commonwealth Fund notes that in Japan, “undocumented immigrants and visitors are not covered” and that even in the Canadian system, “Temporary legal visitors, undocumented immigrants, those who stay in Canada beyond the duration of a legal permit, and those who enter the country ‘illegally,’ are not covered by any federal or provincial program, although provinces and territories provide some limited services.”
In 2017, Britian’s cherished National Health Service, to combat health tourism, started requiring proof of residence for free care and upfront payment from overseas patients. Britain also requires payment of a “healthcare surcharge” when filling out an immigration application. The government’s immigration website says that people can start using the NHS once they’ve paid the surcharge and their “visa or immigration application is granted.”
When they say “Medicare for All,” they mean Medicare for All. Funded by American taxpayers, without regard for how that might further incentivize new asylum claims and illegal crossings. Again, to them, this seems to be a feature of their plan, not a bug.
This isn’t the first time recently that Johnson has knocked his party for being unrealistic about immigration. “Chain link barriers, partitions, fences, cages — whatever you want to call them — were not invented on January 2017,” he said a few days ago in Aspen. “During that 72 hour period, when you have something that is a multiple — like four times of what you’re accustomed to in the existing infrastructure, you’ve got to find places quickly to put kids.” The upset goes both ways, though: Via the Examiner, watch below as fringe-left Ilhan Omar laments the enforcement measures taken by the Obama administration on grounds that they provided a foundation for a “monster” to build on. Only through zero enforcement, it seems, can America avoid a new Trumpy nightmare down the road. Johnson and the left wing of the Democratic Party really are poles apart now. Someone ask Obama what he thinks.
I’m not sure I’ve experienced a major policy debate in my lifetime in which one side wants to do X, Y, and Z and the other side generally doesn’t want to enforce law at all, but here we are. In lieu of an exit question, read David Frum today on the urgent need to reform America’s asylum laws. Frum is anti-Trump in *almost* all things, but not this. His piece is insightful in noting the perverse incentives current asylum law creates for further immigration. Not only does it often take years to resolve an applicant’s appeal (six years and counting in one case he cites), but applicants enjoy legal status while they’re here and are free to work. Which means they can earn money inside the United States and send it back home to family to fund the next wave of asylum-seekers, and on and on as the community of immigrants inside the United States grows. It’s time to stop processing asylum claims with endless adjudications, says Frum. Especially since the vast, vast, vast majority of asylum-seekers clearly aren’t fleeing from systematic persecution but from a lower quality of life — a standard that would make virtually the entirety of the third world eligible for admission.