John Thompson’s assertion that “[Democrats] have increasingly bought the full open borders agenda…while their media allies provide cover by chattering about ‘separating families,’ ‘demonizing immigrants’ or the morality of building walls” is stunning to see in this paper. It is not only baseless, but comprises an oft-used narrative used by far-right ideologues to reduce the immigration debate to a false choice between erecting a concrete wall or having no borders. Let’s note some facts. In 2016, Hillary Clinton did not argue for open borders. I haven’t seen any mainstream 2020 Democratic presidential candidate advocate for it either. I myself am opposed to open borders and I feel right at home in the Democratic Party. In light of this, Thompson’s assertions are woefully misleading and his glossing-over of human rights abuses makes one wonder if he wants American ideals preserved at the border or elsewhere.
We can have a humane immigration policy while enforcing our borders – indeed, we must do both. This could include reforming—but not abolishing—Immigration and Customs Enforcement, handling more asylum cases from Central America, and increasing the number of immigration judges so as to cut down on the backlog of cases in immigration courts. It’s clear that separating families is wrong and un-American. And would Thompson want to argue that caging children is good for them or America’s global leadership role?
No, that’s obvious. What’s less obvious is his argument offered out of context. He ignores that on a per-capita basis, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit homicide or be convicted of a crime than are native-born citizens, according to the Cato Institute. Omitting such facts risks having any informed reader wonder if there’s a nefarious purpose behind the omission. We wonder all the more when we realize that Thompson is weaving a narrative in which America is on the brink of being overrun by millions of lawless, illegal immigrants and our only hope is to build a damn concrete wall.
Even without a wall, border apprehensions have fallen significantly during this century, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. America can continue this trend by promoting a specially tailored aid program to the most devastated communities in Central America, which would aim to combat violent crime while simultaneously boosting economic opportunity. As President Trump has yet to spearhead any policy that effectively targets either, it’s hard to take his commitment to solving the illegal immigration question seriously. It’s just as hard to ignore the not-so-subtle racist narrative about immigrants, who are cast as lawless thugs, and the equally unsubtle caricaturing of any pro-reform Democrats as enablers of crime and chaos.
Thompson would have us believe that the choice is between a Soviet-style wall or the end of America. We can do better, and we can start by respecting the facts—and the intelligence of our fellow citizens.