The Corner

Barbara Jordan, American Patriot

Barbara Jordan died 20 years ago Sunday. As a Democrat, she shared her fellow liberals’ erroneous views – but not the wicked ones. Her patriotism and unwavering support for the Constitution were famously evident at the Watergate hearings. But they were most consequential in her role as chairwoman of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.

The Jordan Commission’s reports called for tightening enforcement and cutting legal immigration by limiting family chain migration and eliminating the idiotic Visa Lottery. They formed the basis of legislation that might well have passed had her death not enabled President Bill Clinton to weasel out from under his earlier pledge of support; he was thus freed to ally with the corporate/leftist front led by Republican senator Spencer Abraham to kill the bill.

Jordan’s statements on immigration will strike ordinary people as common sense, banal even. But over the past two decades we’ve seldom heard even Republicans saying anything like them; any Democrat who did so today would be disowned and shunned.

This first statement has particular resonance at a time when the current administration is unwilling to deport any but a handful of the thousands of Central Americans surging across the Rio Grande:

Deportation is crucial. Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave. The top priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process.

And Jordan didn’t peddle the “legal good, illegal bad” fraud so beloved of politicians. This is from a speech delivered a few months before her death, and could be read verbatim today by Jeff Sessions:

The commission finds no national interest in continuing to import lesser-skilled and unskilled workers to compete in the most vulnerable parts of our labor force. Many American workers do not have adequate job prospects. We should make their task easier to find employment, not harder.

Instead of the Commission’s call for a one-third reduction in legal immigration, we’ve witnessed a one-third increase. Had Barbara Jordan lived she would have been able to use her enormous store of moral capital to shame Congress and the president into doing the right thing 20 years ago, and the immigration debate would sound very different today. Immigration is eventually going to be reduced, but her premature death ensured that the process will be messier and more contentious than it needed to be, with many more Americans harmed by excessive immigration than needed to be. If “the supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils,” then Barbara Jordan was truly a statesman.

(My colleague Jerry Kammer has penned a compact appreciation of Jordan’s life and her role in the immigration debate.)

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

‘Judges for the #Resistance’

At Politico, I wrote today about the judiciary’s activism against Trump on immigration: There is a lawlessness rampant in the land, but it isn’t emanating from the Trump administration. The source is the federal judges who are making a mockery of their profession by twisting the law to block the Trump ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Friendships Are America’s Asset

The stale, clichéd conceptions of Donald Trump held by both Left and Right — a man either utterly useless or only rigidly, transactionally tolerable — conceal the fact that the president does possess redeeming talents that are uniquely his, and deserve praise on their own merit. One is personal friendliness ... Read More
U.S.

Columbia 1968: Another Untold Story

Fifty years ago this week, Columbia students riding the combined wave of the civil-rights and anti-war movements went on strike, occupied buildings across campus, and shut the university down. As you revisit that episode of the larger drama that was the annus horribilis 1968, bear in mind that the past isn’t ... Read More
Culture

Only the Strident Survive

‘I am not prone to anxiety,” historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Times of London on April 22. “Last week, however, for the first time since I went through the emotional trauma of divorce, I experienced an uncontrollable panic attack.” The cause? “A few intemperate emails, inadvertently forwarded ... Read More

Poll Finds Nevada Voters Support School-Choice Programs

According to an April poll, a large number of Nevada voters support school-choice programs. The poll, conducted by Nevada Independent/Mellman, found that 70 percent of voters support a proposal for a special-needs Education Savings Account and 59 percent support expanding the funding for the current tax-credit ... Read More