Try to guess which DC think tank issued a warning that Donald Trump’s emphasis on the rule of law is winning the debate over immigration. Heritage Foundation? The Cato Institute? Surprise — it’s the hard-left Center for American Progress, as the Daily Beast reports today. By hailing unencumbered migration and demonizing immigration enforcement, CAP’s Tom Jawetz warns that Democrats have set up a “false dichotomy” between immigration and the rule of law.
Is he so sure it’s false? Asking for a friend …
But a new report from an influential liberal think tank, provided to The Daily Beast, posits that the party’s decision to cede the “rule of law” ground to Republicans creates “the false dichotomy of America as either a nation of immigrants or a nation of laws”—making the party and its candidates appear soft on enforcement, and potentially weakening future attempts for humanitarian-focused immigration reform.
In doing so, writes Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, supporters of humane immigration policy “have ceded powerful rhetorical ground to immigration restrictionists, who are happy to masquerade as the sole defenders of America as a nation of laws.”
Jawetz—a former immigration attorney and chief counsel on the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, differentiates “the rule of law” and Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric, calling the latter “an enforcement-heavy vision of social control that is generally used as a racially coded dog whistle.” For Democrats to achieve a fair and functional immigration system, they have to patch the immigration system’s fragmented legal framework, Jawetz writes—instead of “relying increasingly upon administrative discretion to save the system from itself.”
Ahem. Democrats have not so much “ceded powerful rhetorical ground” but abandoned it with great enthusiasm. Constant discussion of abolishing ICE — the agency responsible for, y’know, enforcing the laws Congress passed regarding immigration — tends to do that. Compound that with members of the House Democratic caucus calling detention facilities “concentration camps,” and you’re not ceding anything. You’re gleefully dunking the rule of law in the faces of voters to own the cons.
Bear in mind too that the worst perpetrators of this nonsense come from CAP’s wing of the party. The Center for American Progress is not a moderate center-left think tank, even if they conveniently allied with the Clintons at times. They aren’t as radical as Justice Democrats, but House members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are closer to CAP on the spectrum than most of the other frosh Democrats who won in Trump-friendly districts. Watching CAP come down on the side of the latter is akin to watching Dr. Frankenstein first come to terms with his creation.
That’s especially true as CAP has spent the last several years cheering on “administrative discretion.” What exactly is DACA and DAPA other than administrative discretion? Did they object when Barack Obama used his administrative discretion to limit the scope of immigration-law enforcement without Congress changing the statutes? CAP’s concern on this point comes directly from the fact that the executive isn’t controlled by a progressive any longer, which suddenly necessitates rewriting statutes rather than picking up a pen and a phone.
That doesn’t make CAP wrong, of course. Our immigration laws need a massive overhaul to reinforce the rule of law. It’s just that CAP’s sudden conversion to that concept looks less like a principled stand than it does a realization that anyone can be President Pen & Phone, and that open borders sells very, very badly among American voters.