When it comes to “open borders”, Joe Biden has gone as far as a President can go without actually abolishing them. This June alone, US Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 200,000 people at the southern border, leading Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott to bus migrants to Washington D.C. and New York, liberal “sanctuary cities” whose police departments don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Such progressive posturing may soon run out of steam: faced with a looming humanitarian crisis, the Democratic mayors of both cities, Eric Adams of New York and Muriel Bowser of D.C., are now begging the federal government for assistance.
Yet perhaps the most surprising element of all this chaos is the way the media have blamed the Right for this crisis. “Cold-Blooded Texas Guv Vows to Dump Asylum Seekers in the Middle of D.C.,” was how the Daily Beast covered the story. “GOP Governors Cause Havoc by Busing Migrants to the East Coast,” explained the New York Times. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre called Abbott’s policy “shameful” and a “political ploy”.
The migrants themselves, however, are under no illusions about who deserves credit for their arrival in the US. “Biden promised us that everything was going to change,” one migrant told reporters back in March. “He promised the Haitian community he will help them,” a Haitian migrant told Fox News. “I just need [the US] to tell me when we can cross,” a Honduran woman told Politico.
Where did millions of migrants get the idea that Biden had invited them in? From Biden himself, naturally. During the 2020 primary debates, then-candidate Biden said that migrants illegally crossing the border should not be detained, and like nearly every other candidate on the debate stage, he said he would decriminalise illegal border crossing. Millions of migrants were listening, along with the human traffickers who extort, torture, rape and kill them.
And Biden has more or less followed through as President. From Day One, he stopped construction of a border wall with Mexico, ended President Trump’s travel ban restricting travel from 14 countries, and dramatically reduced deportations — from more than 267,000 in 2019 to just 59,000 in 2021. The Biden administration also vowed to end Title 42, a Trump-era restriction that allowed migrants to be turned away due to the pandemic, though a federal judge in Louisiana has for now blocked Biden’s attempts to end the policy. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security said this week that it plans to end another effective Trump-era program, Remain in Mexico, which allowed border agents to turn migrants away and have them wait in Mexico until their removal hearings.”
What’s most peculiar about all this is how the administration’s de facto open-border policy represents a remarkable U-turn on the Left. Until very recently, free-market Republicans were the ones pushing for things like amnesty and easy access to migrant labour, while the Democrats were on the side of limiting immigration. Back in the Nineties, Barbara Jordan, the first black woman from the South elected to Congress and Democrat Chair of the US Commission on Immigration Reform, wrote that the commission found “no national interest in continuing to import lesser skilled and unskilled workers to compete in the most vulnerable parts of our labour force”.
“Open borders? No, that’s a Koch Brothers proposal,” socialist Senator Bernie Sanders scoffed as recently as 2015. “What Right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that.” Fast forward to that 2020 primary debate and Sanders, just like Biden, said he would support decriminalising illegal border crossing.
This reversal is especially surprising given that the Democrats’ base — or what used to be their base — agrees more with Bernie 2015 than Bernie 2020. In 2019, a large majority of black and Hispanic Americans said they would vote for a presidential candidate who stood for strengthening border security to reduce illegal immigration. This shouldn’t be surprising: Illegal immigration has been tied to a 20-60% decrease in black working-class wages. Another recent study suggested that immigration accounts for a third of the decline in the black employment rate over the last 40 years. “Black Americans are more supportive of limiting immigration than any other bloc of the Democratic coalition,” the sociologist Musa al Gharbi reported. “And Hispanics actually tend to be more concerned about illegal immigration than are whites or Blacks.”
Why did the Democrats abandon these voters? Many who support mass immigration do so ostensibly because of the overall effect on GDP, which is positive. But they tend not to ask, positive for whom? As the economist George Borjas has argued, immigration primarily boosts the incomes of the immigrants themselves, while redistributing wealth from the native poor to the native rich. In other words, among Americans, it is the elites who benefit from open borders, people whose professional-class jobs would never be threatened by someone who doesn’t speak English. For the American working classes, good jobs are sacrificed on the altar of helping those from other countries.
Point this out and you can count on a member of the Squad to call you racist — a ridiculous accusation given who has paid the highest price for mass immigration. “The history of citizenship in the US is deeply woven with the history of racism,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said back in 2019. “It has been used as the legal enforcer of racism for most of US history.” When Vice President Kamala Harris told would-be migrants to stay home, Ilhan Omar tweeted: “We should not abandon our values and rights to far-Right white nationalists.”
But these accusations of bigotry hide a class divide that has seen the Democrats choose educated white elites over the working class again and again. Remember that immigrants make up nearly 50% of America’s household servants, 42% of taxi drivers and chauffeurs, and 35% of grounds maintenance workers. It is these migrants’ employers, not the migrants themselves, who are the target audience for Democrats’ “anti-racist” moralising.
Of course, many of these progressives also have compassion for migrants crossing the border in search of a better life. I do, too. It’s impossible not to feel for people seeking a better life for their children. But what about America’s own struggling workers? Why no compassion for them? Like so much of what passes for political debate in America in 2022, the fight between Governor Abbott and Mayors Adams and Bowser is less about values and more about interests. Big-city Democrats want to flatter the moral vanity of their elite base by rhetorically supporting illegal immigration, but only so long as border states such as Texas and Arizona are the ones who foot the bill.
Moreover, the “compassionate” approach is incentivising truly dangerous behaviours, leading to parents drowning in the Rio Grande with their infants and to children riding La Bestia migrant train and watching as others fall off to their deaths. A third of women who make the trip across the border admit to being sexually abused, and nearly everyone is preyed upon in some way by the powerful cartels that now effectively control the border. Trump may have gone too far with his family separation policy, but his relentless approach to the border ended up preventing a lot of suffering, both to would-be migrants and to American workers. Since the start of 2022, authorities have found 609 bodies on the border, a record high that doesn’t even include those discovered further north in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Some of these deaths made headlines, such as the 50 migrants who perished in the back of an abandoned truck in south Texas earlier this year, or the migrant from Nicaragua who drowned crossing the Rio Grande in May, or the 22-year-old who drowned in April. But most of these tragic and totally preventable deaths go unnoticed.
This is Leftist compassion curdled into cruelty. And it’s not Governor Abbott’s fault — it’s President Biden’s.