Nicholas Kristof: Biden is Right to Curb Immigration

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Nicholas Kristof is a fairly progressive columnist for the NY Times. Today he has a new column in which he admits something that is simultaneously obvious and awkward: We need to control the border.


Let's just get the obvious out of the way here. The only reason Biden is taking action on the border is because it's an election year. If it weren't an election year he'd still be doing nothing. And along with that, let's also stipulate that if Joe Biden weren't taking this action, Nicholas Kristof would not be saying it's a good idea to control the border. 

All of this is happening because of politics. And yet, as Kristof himself says, just because Biden's actions are entirely political doesn't mean they are wrong. The same is true for Kristof's column. 

It's amazing what a progressive can suddenly realize about the problems with an unregulated border once the leader of his party has given him permission to do so.

However much we believe in immigration, we’re not going to welcome all 114 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced, not to mention perhaps one billion children globally who are estimated to suffer some kind of severe deprivation. We must settle for accepting a fraction of those eager to come, and determining that fraction is the political question before us, with many trade-offs to consider...

I’m influenced in my thinking by a terrific book by my Times colleague David Leonhardt, “Ours Was the Shining Future,” which examined many studies on the impact of immigration on wages. Leonhardt concluded that immigration wasn’t the primary reason for income stagnation among low-education workers over the last half-century, but that it nonetheless was a significant secondary factor...

Some working-class voters feel betrayed by Democrats who pushed to open borders, and there may be an element of xenophobia or racism in this anger — but also an element of truth. The United States makes it difficult for foreign doctors to practice in America, protecting physicians from competition. But the United States makes it relatively easy for low-skilled immigrants to work here and push down wages of our most vulnerable workers.

I’ve also wondered about the incentives we inadvertently create. In Guatemalan villages, I’ve seen families prepared to send children on the perilous journey to the United States, and I fear that lax immigration policies encourage people to risk their lives and their children’s lives on the journey.


To sum up, there are far more migrants than we can possibly take in. Migrants depress wages for low-end workers. And by opening the border you create a pull-factor which leads some people to take tremendous risks with their lives and those of their children.

If Kristof were in a really generous mood, he might admit that if Biden is right to do what he's doing then Trump was probably right too. And so were millions of Americans who have felt the same way all along. But he doesn't go that far. 

Still, even if he is late to the party, better late than never. it's good to see that some of the top comments (all from NY Times subscribers) agree. From a reader in Germany.

"However much we believe in immigration, we’re not going to welcome all 114 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced, not to mention perhaps one billion children globally who are estimated to suffer some kind of severe deprivation." 

Finally a progressive vouce of reason on immigration! I've been saying the same, here in Germany, for a long time. And for my realistic and pragmatic views, I've been called a rightwing radical in 2015, when Merkel welcomed the huge wave of migrants. That came as a nasty surprise for me as a Social Democrat voter, I can tell you. It's good to see that after years of increasing frustration about the consequences of an uncontrolled inflow of people, reason prevails again. There must be a better, more regulated way to do this, with limits based on the capacity for integration. One thing's for sure: Wishful thinking ain't a solution!


From California:

Climate change is making more migrants.   Borders need to be secure before migrants start arriving in the tens and hundreds of millions.  What we see now is nothing compared to what is to come.

And one more which makes an obvious point that Kristof fails to make. Biden doesn't really care about this and he'll go back to not caring as soon as the election is over, as will most Democrats. And if Trump wins, they'll all be right back to shouting that "the cruelty is the point" and will forget everything they just learned about the need to control the border. You can bet on it.

Biden waited over 3 years to address this issue. Why did he think it was more important to abuse his power for student loan forgiveness rather than to secure our border? Does this new policy have anything to do with the election? Sadly tremendous damage has already been done and the Administration cannot be trusted with border security.

It's too bad Democrats (and progressives like Kristof) couldn't decide to be sensible about this several years ago. It's too late now. They just aren't credible on this issue.

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