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Disorder on the Border Remains a Problem for Biden Democrats

Michael Barone on

What were they thinking? Did President Joe Biden and the folks who put together his immigration policy imagine the voting public would celebrate policies that resulted in a record-high number of migration encounters -- more than three-quarters of a million -- in the usually low-immigration months of October, November and December 2023?

Did they think letting in hundreds of thousands of people they would classify preliminarily as "asylum-seekers" and telling them to report for hearings as late as 2031 would go unnoticed?

Did they think having the government fly illegal immigrants by night into "sanctuary cities" such as New York and Chicago would go unnoticed? Did they think Republican governors in border states wouldn't launch their own flights of illegal immigrants from Texas to New York City, or Florida to Martha's Vineyard?

Did they ever contemplate that election-year pollsters would report that the issue brought up most often by voters would be immigration?

I must imagine the answer to these questions is no. Politicians do not lightly inflict political damage on themselves. And anyone who has experienced, and presumably has some memory of, the voting public's dissatisfaction with illegal immigration surges in the 1980s, '90s, and up through the housing market collapse in 2007 and 2008 -- a category that includes Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas -- should understand the negative political potential of unchecked illegal immigration.

So how to explain the Biden administration's adoption of immigration policies that amount to something difficult to distinguish from open borders?

One explanation, proffered by original and sometimes eccentric commentator Michael Lind, is that the Biden Democrats are trying to "import better voters." Letting in several million more illegal immigrants -- no one can be sure just how many -- will, in time, produce, either through loose voter qualification laws or citizen children of illegal immigrants, a rising number of Democratic voters.

These, the theory goes, will replace the descendants of Ellis Islander immigrants of 1892-1924 who fell away from Democratic allegiance in the 1970s and '80s. The problem is that it's not clear that "people of color" will turn out to be as unanimously Democratic as Black voters were in the years from Barry Goldwater to Barack Obama.

There's increasing evidence, even in left-leaning California, that many Hispanic immigrants of 1982-2007 and their progeny are becoming Trump Republicans, just as many white ethnics became Reagan Republicans 40 years ago.

Another explanation is that Team Biden was misled by changing attitudes of their fellow Democratic voters that, as neighborhood signs say, "no human is illegal." Since 2007, support for "increasing immigration levels" has increased from 10% to 40% levels among Democrats while remaining around 10% among Republicans, according to General Social Survey.

 

Certainly, through his 50-plus-year political career, Biden has not veered far from the prevailing opinion in his party. And within the Democratic bubble, it's natural to believe overturning any policy associated with Donald Trump is widely popular. It's natural to believe as well that sympathetic media will try to cover up any unfavorable news, as most media has on illegal immigration during most of the Biden presidency.

There's another factor operating here, one that helps to explain the increasing opposition to Israel and support for Palestinians among Democratic voters: the tendency, encouraged for two generations on college campuses, to see the world as separated between the oppressed and the oppressors.

In this paradigm, Trump and his America First followers are seen as the oppressors, and people illegally crossing the border are seen as the oppressed. And just as oppressors are always vicious, the oppressed are always virtuous.

In that background, eliminating border controls, as Biden did by multiple executive orders, wasn't politically dangerous. Mexican immigration has been low since 2007, and Vice President Kamala Harris could cure any ills that might prompt Central Americans to venture overland through Mexico to the Rio Grande.

But it turns out Biden-era illegal immigrants come from multiple places and often with malign motives. They're ready to pay off Mexican cartels to get a chance to game the system inside the United States. And they've surely been coming in numbers much larger than Biden policymakers expected.

The huge number of illegal crossings in late 2023, together with poll numbers, had the Biden administration contemplating a policy reversal, but Politico reports that's now off. The plan now is to blame Trump and House Republicans for opposing the bipartisan legislation of Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). "Donald Trump broke the border," a Biden-Harris billboard proclaims.

This seems unconvincing. If there's anything Trump is known for, it's denouncing illegal immigration, and there was and is nothing to stop Biden from issuing executive orders reversing the day-one executive orders that opened the floodgates. Disorder works against incumbents, and it's hard to see how the disorder produced by Biden's "orange man bad" immigration policies will be blamed, by anyone but partisan Democrats, on Republicans.

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Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. His new book, "Mental Maps of the Founders: How Geographic Imagination Guided America's Revolutionary Leaders," is now available.


Copyright 2024 U.S. News and World Report. Distibuted by Creators Syndicate Inc.

 

 

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