The Corner

Immigration

Yes, the Democrats Are for Open Borders

A U.S. Border Patrol agent at the U.S.-Mexican border near Calexico, Calif., in 2017. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Although Democrats routinely deny that they’re for open borders — dismissing the very suggestion as an outrageous slur — their reaction to Sunday’s violence by some of the Central American illegal aliens in Tijuana suggests otherwise.

If Democrats criticize DHS for trying to prevent storming of the border, and for responding to attacks on its agents with non-lethal crowd-control measures like tear gas, then what border-control measures can they possibly be for?

The border clash was the culmination of a series of policy choices by Democrats over the past several years, asymptotically approaching open borders. Although things are lousy in Central America, it was the Obama administration’s reaction to illegal immigration from there that created this flow. By releasing into the U.S. Central Americans bringing children with them, as well as releasing “unaccompanied” “minors” from Central America who were brought here by smugglers hired by their relatives in the U.S., the prior administration created a powerful incentive to head north.

As a Salvadoran illegal alien who was released by the Border Patrol after crossing into Texas told my colleague Jerry Kammer in 2014: “We were watching CNN, and they were saying that the United States was giving opportunities to women with children. And since some neighbors of ours had come, we decided to try it.”

The ruse these illegal immigrants have been using to get released is an asylum claim. Even though the vast majority of the claims are clearly without merit (and half of those released in order to pursue their applications never bother to follow through), the Left, both in and out of government, has encouraged their filing, and the prolongation of cases.

Having incentivized the flow of Central American asylum seekers, the Democrats then opposed all the steps needed to prevent asylum from being used as a strategy for illegal immigration — such as amending the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, overturning the Flores Settlement, raising the bar for a “credible fear” claim (the first hurdle in the asylum process), and funding more detention beds.

And the incentives for bogus asylum claims come within the larger context of the Democrats challenging the very idea of enforcing immigration laws. Long before #AbolishICE became a rallying cry for the party’s socialist wing, Democratic bigwigs have been saying that no illegal alien should ever be sent home merely because he snuck into the country or overstayed  a visa. Nancy Pelosi in 2013 put it very clearly: “If somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation.” Hillary Clinton said much the same during one of the 2016 primary debates: “Of the people, the undocumented people living in our country, I do not want to see them deported.” Likewise with Bernie Sanders, at the same debate; in response to Jorge Ramos’s question, “And can you promise not to deport immigrants who don’t have a criminal record?” Sanders answered, “I can make that promise.”

If you will an end, you must will the means to that end. The Democrats have demonstrated that there are no means to achieve the goal of controlled immigration that they are willing to support — not border control to keep unauthorized people from barging in, and not deportation of those who manage to get past the notional borders. For a pedant, that may not qualify as “open borders,” in the sense that national frontiers would be completely unmonitored, merely jurisdictional markers showing who picks up the garbage on which side of the line. But it’s good enough for government work.

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

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