For more than four years, we've all been deluged with lies about immigration. So it should come as no surprise that, when Democrats propose comprehensive immigration reform, there are those who remain skeptical and fear that implementation would be the equivalent of "open borders." That is, however, no excuse for politicians and pundits on the left to repeat the lies and get it all wrong.
While it's true that passing immigration reform in the current congress will be a major uphill battle, it is important to start with the truth. From there, Rep. Jamie Raskin's formula makes sense.
It’s not my ambition to be in the political centre, which blows around with the wind. It’s my ambition to be in the moral centre and that’s why I call myself a progressive because I think our job is to find what’s right, the best that we can, and then bring the political centre to us.
So let's start with some truth about immigration. The first lie that needs to be addressed is the one about what is/isn't happening on our southern border. Here is an overview of the immigrant population in America.
"It is clear from our research that persons who overstay their visas add to the US undocumented population at a higher rate than border crossers. This is not a blip, but a trend which has become the norm," said Donald Kerwin, CMS' executive director, in a statement. "...
"We have made tremendous progress since the year 2000 in reducing undocumented immigration into this country," the study's author, CMS senior fellow Robert Warren, told NPR...He said that both the Bush and Obama administrations had roughly doubled the size of the Border Patrol and that the country has seen results.
"In another era, we would be celebrating our success," said Warren.
Biden had a front row seat to witness that emphasis on securing the border. He knows that, other than some technological upgrades to those efforts, we've "been there...done that." It's now time to move on to address the issues at hand.
The 30%+ of immigrants who enter the U.S. across the southern border are no longer coming simply because America is "a desirable destination. " Instead, they are asylum-seekers attempting to escape violence and corruption in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. As such, they don't tend to disappear into the shadows as undocumented immigrants, but seek to present their case to U.S. authorities.
Comprehensive immigration reform, as presented by Democrats, is aimed at developing a humane system for dealing with asylum-seekers, while working with their countries of origin to deal with the issues from which they are fleeing. In other words, this is not something that can be addressed by yet more investment in securing the border.
Finally, the bill being proposed by Democrats also makes some changes to our legal immigration system. For the most part, they are meant to ban the kind of draconian measures implemented by the Trump administration. While it's true that the U.S. must place limits on the number of immigrants admitted to this country, we must ensure that the system is not being driven by xenophobia. That is precisely what it means to find the "moral center."
The Biden administration entered office with an awful lot on their plates. It is clear that dealing with the pandemic and its economic impact is job number one. As the GOP focuses all of their attention on suppressing the vote, election reform (as proposed in the For the People Act) has also risen to the top of the priority list. But it is also clear that during Trump's presidency, our immigration system—which was already broken—was turned into something that is both cruel and inhumane. It would be unconscionable for Democrats to ignore that. To claim the moral center, we must jettison the lies and provide the American people with the truth.