Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Do Democrats Actually Have an Immigration Policy? Do They Need One?

The answers to these questions are, respectively, no and yes. No one should kid themselves that opposition to the way Trump handles the issue and to the various racist and nativist things he says constitutes a coherent policy. It does not. Immigration is a complicated policy issue and an even more complicated political issue. Democrats must eventually define their position in this area or suffer consequences.
Of course, it is fair to point out that Americans are broadly sympathetic to immigrants, think they should be treated humanely and see them as generally strengthening the country--but that does not mean these same Americans do not favor defined limits on immigration levels, tighter border security and curtailing illegal immigration. Put simply, Americans do not favor open borders and believe (correctly) that this would not make sense as a national policy.
David Leonhardt makes some of these same points in an excellent piece in his New York Times newsletter. He notes that Democrats were not always so afraid to define their position on immigration and should not avoid doing so today simply because Trump is so terrible. He puts it this way:
"I understand why the Democratic Party has moved to the left on immigration policy over the past few years. It is, in significant part, an honorable reaction to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant racism and a desire to stand up for immigrants during his presidency. The Trump administration has separated immigrant children from their parents, and Democrats are trying to protect those families.
What’s less clear to me is exactly what the Democratic Party’s new position on immigration is.
Among the questions that I’d like Democrats to answer:
* What kind of border security do you believe in? Do you favor the policies Obama put in place to reduce illegal immigration — or a different approach?
* Do you believe that immigrants who enter this country illegally should be allowed to stay? If not, which categories of undocumented immigrants should be at risk of deportation? (In a 2016 debate, Clinton and Sanders didn’t offer clear answers when Univision’s Jorge Ramos asked similar questions.)
* What do you believe should happen to future levels of legal immigration? And what should happen to the mix of different categories of immigration? Should family connections play as large a role as they now do? Should workplace skills continue to play a small role?
* Do you believe, as Sanders suggested in 2015, that more immigration can reduce wages, especially for lower-income workers and recent immigrants themselves?"
These are all good questions and they deserve answers! Trump has an immigration policy; Democrats must have one too--and it can't simply be opposition to whatever Trump does/says. Voters will eventually infer from this that you simply want the opposite of what Trump wants--i.e,, Trump wants to close the borders, so Democrats must want to open them. That's not good policy and it sure isn't good politics.
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Not so long ago, the party had a clear platform. It no longer does.

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