The correct answer? Pure political calculation, my friends, pure political calculation. Joe Biden has a comfortable and stable lead in Democratic presidential-primary polling despite being a punching bag in two prime-time debates. That means never having to clarify your thinking on a hot-button issue that plays very differently in the primary than it will in a general election.
Or even very differently in different primary cycles, as The Hill notes:
When Biden was running to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2007, he was unequivocal when asked at a debate about whether he would allow sanctuary cities to ignore federal law.
“No,” he responded.
That was then, when Democrats at least pretending to care about border security, and this is now, when open borders is the progressive cause du jour. Why step up to the plate to clarify the sanctuary-city position when challengers like Kamala Harris tie themselves in knots justifying decriminalization of illegal immigration?
Better to just keep attacking Trump and ignoring the questions:
Earlier this year, the Biden campaign released a statement saying that the former vice president opposes Trump’s “crackdown” on sanctuary cities, including the efforts to starve the municipalities of federal funding.
“[Biden] believes that the Trump Administration’s approach to immigration, including its crackdown on sanctuary cities and especially its repugnant treatment of migrant children, is contrary to our values as a nation,” said spokesperson Andrew Bates.
But the Biden campaign did not respond to several follow-up questions from The Hill about whether he supports any enforcement efforts designed to ensure cooperation between local and federal officials in sanctuary cities.
If and when Team Biden gets around to clarifying this, they have a perfectly good way to frame it — at least in a general election. Biden can claim that comprehensive immigration reform would moot the need for sanctuary cities. That would be a fantasy, of course; any immigration policy that still enforced the law would prompt urban progressives to declare their cities “sanctuaries.” That’s exactly what happened during Barack Obama’s administration, the very same one around which Biden has fully wrapped his arms in order to campaign for The Restoration.
Biden might not be able to duck the question for much longer, though, not if ICE continues to conduct massive sweeps such as the operation in Mississippi this week:
Federal agents raided several companies across Mississippi on Wednesday, rounding up hundreds of immigrant workers in what federal officials said might be the largest worksite enforcement action ever in a single state.
In a coordinated sting, more than 600 agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed up at the sites with federal warrants that allowed them to search the premises. About 680 immigrants who were believed to be working without legal documentation were apprehended and taken away on buses. …
The raids were by far the largest to occur since Mr. Trump took office, and the biggest since December 2006, when more than 1,200 people were swept up in a raid at several units of a meat processing company.
The national media are focusing on the children who have been left parentless by the arrests, making the issue more acute for presidential contenders:
After ICE agents took approximately 680 workers at seven Mississippi food processing plants into custody on Wednesday in the largest single-state immigration raid in U.S. history, 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio tearfully begged for her father’s release.
“Government please show some heart, let my parent be free with everybody else please…” she said through sobs. “…My dad didn’t do nothing. He’s not a criminal.”
Gregorio’s father was one of hundreds of undocumented immigrants rounded up by ICE during the raids, which had apparently been planned for more than a year.
The girl’s defense of her father is both heartbreaking and understandable, but it’s also incorrect. Entering the country illegally and working without a proper visa are criminal acts, and ICE is tasked with enforcing those laws passed by Congress. They don’t make up the laws out of thin air, after all. When we arrest criminals in the US for other reasons, they also get separated from their children, but that responsibility is on their shoulders, not those who enforce the law.
This story will likely increase pressure on Biden to recalculate his reluctance to weigh in on sanctuary city policies, but it’s a trap. If he backs sanctuary cities, he’ll lose votes in the general election among those leery that Democrats want to open the borders and allow indiscriminate crossings with no consequences. If Biden sticks to his 2007 position, he’ll lose ground with progressives who might be holding their noses and backing Biden as the only electable candidate to take on Trump.
How long can Biden hold out? He must hope that this story will fade before the next Democratic debate. The Hill shouldn’t wait by the phone for Biden’s return call in the meantime.