Robert Reich: BS On The Border – OpEd


The long-awaited bipartisan Senate deal on immigration contains no real reforms, such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It’s all about “securing” the border. 

Biden and Senate Democrats have caved to Senate Republican hardliners. Among other restrictions, the bill would make it much harder for people to apply for asylum. 

On Friday evening Biden called the bill “the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country.” 

Then Biden went further — endorsing a full border shutdown. He said the bill “would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.

I very much doubt Biden would shut the border if he signs this bill into law.

So what’s going on here? The underlying politics here has nothing to do with funding Ukraine. It doesn’t have to do with reforming immigration. It doesn’t even have much to do with the practical challenge of securing the border. 

It has everything to do with the 2024 election, in which border security has become a big issue. 

The nation does have to take reasonable action to stem the illegal flow of immigrants. But Trump has stoked American’s fears with lies (see below). 

Trump and Biden are engaged in a giant pre-election kabuki fight over the border. 

Biden wants to take the border issue away from Trump and figures this bill will do it. Which is exactly why Trump doesn’t want the bill enacted. “As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible, open-borders betrayal of America,” Trump said on Saturday. “It’s not going to happen, and I’ll fight it all the way.” 

Trump says he welcomes criticism from GOP senators. “Please, blame it on me. Please, because they were getting ready to pass a very bad bill.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson, Trump’s lapdog-in-chief, says the bill is “dead on arrival” in the House. Besides, he now says, it isn’t needed because Biden already has all the authority he needs to close the border. 

Um … just last year, Johnson argued that Congress must tighten immigration laws to strengthen the president’s hand. When he was president, Trump sought similar additional authority from Congress.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are about to begin impeachment proceedings against Alejandro Mayorkas, homeland security secretary, for allegedly being too soft on border security — even though Mayorkas worked with Senate Republicans to come up with this hardline border deal.

We need to deal with the border, but Republicans are now the ones sitting on their hands because they’re beholden to Trump. We also need to deal with immigration in a humane way by offering a broad and reasonable path to citizenship, but Democrats seem to have forgotten this basic goal. 

The public, meanwhile, is utterly confused by Trump’s demagoguing. Here are Trump’s biggest lies, followed by the truth.

Trump claims Biden doesn’t want to stem illegal immigration and has created an “open border.”

Rubbish. Since he took office, Biden has consistently asked for additional funding for border control.

Republicans have just as consistently refused. They’ve voted to cut Customs and Border Protection funding in spending bills and blocked passage of Biden’s $106 billion national security supplemental that includes border funding

Trump blames the drug crisis on illegal immigration.

Bull. While large amounts of fentanyl and other deadly drugs have been flowing into the United States from Mexico, 90 percent arrives through official ports of entrynot via immigrants illegally crossing the border. Research by the conservative Cato Institute found that more than 86 percent of the people convicted of trafficking fentanyl across the border in 2021 were U.S. citizens.

Trump claims that undocumented immigrants are terrorists.

Baloney. America’s southern border has not been an entry point for terrorists. For almost a half-century, no American has been killed or injured in a terrorist attack in the United States that involved someone who crossed the border illegally.

Trump says undocumented immigrants are stealing American jobs.

Nonsense. Evidence shows immigrants are not taking jobs that American workers want. The surge across the border is not increasing unemployment. Far from it: Unemployment has been below 4 percent for roughly two years, far lower than the long-term average rate of 5.71 percent. It’s now 3.7 percent.

Trump claims undocumented immigrants are responsible for more crime in America.

More BS. In fact, a 2020 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cited by the Department of Justice, showed that undocumented immigrants have “substantially” lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants. Despite the recent surge in illegal immigration, America’s homicide rate has fallen nearly 13 percent since 2022 — the largest decrease on record. Local law enforcement agencies are also reporting drops in violent crime.

Since he entered politics, Donald Trump has fanned nativist fears and bigotry.

Now he’s moving into full-throttled neofascism, using the actual language of Hitler to attack immigrants — charging that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” and saying they’re “like a military invasion. Drugs, criminals, gang members and terrorists are pouring into our country at record levels. We’ve never seen anything like it. They’re taking over our cities.” He promises to use the U.S. military to round up undocumented immigrants and put them into “camps.”

The parallels with Nazi Germany are chilling. In 1932, the canny Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels called for “a thick wall around Germany,” to protect against immigrants. “Certainly we want to build a wall, a protective wall.” 

Trump and his enablers want us to forget that almost all of us are the descendants of immigrants who fled persecution, or were brought to America under duress, or simply sought better lives for themselves and their descendants.

Immigration has been good for America. As the median age of Americans continues to rise, we’ll need more young people from around the world. 

The central question shouldn’t be how to secure our borders. It should be how to create an orderly and humane path to citizenship. 

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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