The Democratic move left on immigration is driven by Trump’s polarization of the issue. Before Trump, most Democrats sought to balance their core pro-immigration beliefs with a nod toward law-and-order: promoting crackdowns on employers that hire undocumented workers and deportations of the undocumented who commit serious crimes. Now, Trump’s complete lack of humanity toward asylum seekers prompts Democrats to more strongly emphasize that those who seek entry to America are human, and deserve humane treatment. And if the undocumented are human, and not subhuman invaders, then policies should flow from that fundamental truth. Therefore, a human who has crossed the border for legitimate reasons should not be branded a criminal and denied health insurance.
I support the humane principle girding those positions. However, taking these unpopular stances is a classic case of leading with one’s chin. Giving access to health coverage to the undocumented appears to reward those who, under existing law, did commit a crime (albeit a misdemeanor). The decriminalization of border crossings conjures up images of a disorderly, unruly immigration process.