The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

OPINION: Democrats are Handing Trump the Narrative on Immigration

Blake Amis

The United States-Mexico border has dominated national headlines consistently for the past 20 years. And this year, like every election season, Republicans are making sure to place as much fear as possible in the hearts of white Americans about how supposedly dangerous immigrants are. 

But the xenophobic rhetoric seems to be getting worse in recent months. Donald Trump has repeated the language of Adolf Hitler in speeches as he refers to immigrants as “vermin” who are “poisoning the blood of our country.” 

“They come from Africa, they come from Asia, they come from South America,” Trump said in Dec. 19 rally in Waterloo Iowa.

This sentiment is not exclusive to Trump, a CBS News poll conducted in early January found that 72 percent of Republican primary voters agreed with the notion that immigrants were poisoning the blood of the country, and the percentage rose to 82 percent when it was attributed to Trump.

Perhaps none of this should surprise people. But what is astounding is that there has been seemingly no real effort from Democrats to counter this racist rhetoric. Sure, the party has spent time condemning its deeply racist overtones, but why has there not been aggressive counter-messaging? Are Biden and the Democrats really going to let Trump control the narrative on this issue like he did in 2016, and as the Republicans have done for decades now?

Through their relative silence on the issue, Democrats are not just handing Trump the narrative – they are not even attempting to put up a fight because they have a delusion that supporting ultra-conservative immigration policy could somehow win over Trump’s base. They must realize they will never be able to out-racist the Republicans, and they will never be able to win over voters who get angry when they hear someone speaking Spanish at the grocery store.

In congress – Senate Democrats are not exactly putting up a fight either.

On Dec. 6, Senate Republicans announced that they would block any bill that would give military aid to Israel or Ukraine unless it was paired with a conservative border bill that would make it extremely difficult for anyone to seek asylum and safety in the U.S.

The announcement came as a surprise to Senate Democrats, as conservative Republicans have been the biggest supporters of Israel. Democrats could have taken this as an opportunity to point out how Republicans have killed previous bipartisan immigration bills, such as in 2013 and 2006, when presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, nearly got big border legislation through Congress.

Instead, Senate Democrats caved and immediately began to negotiate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his party without much resistance or public outrage. A month of negotiating resulted in a very conservative border deal, something that Trump and Stephen Miller—Trump’s white nationalist policy advisor who designed the Trump Administration’s family separation policy—could only have dreamt of passing in 2017.

McConnell admitted as much, saying at a Jan. 17 press conference, “If we had a 100 percent Republican government—President, House, Senate—we probably would not be able to get a single Democratic vote to pass what [Oklahoma] Senator Lankford and the administration are trying to get together on.”

The proposed bill, called the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act includes provisions that would permit the federal government to shut down the border completely and have mandatory deportations if the border sees 5,000 migrants attempt to cross in a single day. 

The bill would also completely overhaul the asylum process give each applicant only 90 days to be processed. But this lightning-fast asylum procedure would cause far more harm than meets the eye. What are the asylum-seekers escaping, after all? Many from Latin America are fleeing mass poverty and unprecedented violence from corrupt governments and cartels—and it must be noted that the U.S. bears some responsibility through its decades of regime change and colonialism in Latin America. The people trying to cross are not “terrorists” as Trump would have his supporters believe. Most asylum-seekers are ordinary people who are desperate to protect themselves and their families, and often have nothing left when they arrive. Allowing only 90 days for asylum seekers to be processed will make it so nearly every person is rejected, as most asylum cases take months to configure with the current backlog, and the only way to fulfill the arbitrary 90 day time limit would be to reject as many asylum seekers as possible . Any reform bill should include more support for asylum-seekers, not less.

Despite the far-right nature of the GOP bill, Democrats were ready to give in and vote for it. Progressives like Bernie Sanders came out against it, but it seemed to have enough Republican support to pass the 60 votes needed for cloture.

Then, in a sudden turn of events, on Jan. 29, Trump publicly came out against the bill and urged Senate Republicans to vote against it because he feared the legislation’s passage would give Biden bipartisan credibility that could help defeat him in November’s presidential election. The legislation would have given the GOP nearly everything they wanted — but to go against Trump represented political suicide, so Republicans threw away what would have been the political layup of a lifetime. 

This is not the only example of Democrats letting Republicans call all the shots. 

On Jan. 11, far-right Texas governor Greg Abbott announced that he had ordered the Texas National Guard to take control of the border away from federal agents in the small Texas town of Eagle Pass. Immediately, the Texas National Guard began placing military-grade razor wire on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande River—an act that is illegal for a state to do on its own—and blocked federal agents from tearing it down.

These actions immediately resulted in the death of a 33-year-old woman and her two young children who drowned in the Rio Grande on Jan. 12 while attempting to cross to the U.S., as the Texas National Guard prevented federal agents from a routine rescue procedure that would have saved the family of three.

Biden and the federal government immediately sued the state of Texas, and after drawn-out legal battles, on Jan. 22, the Supreme Court ordered Texas to let federal border agents through.

Texas chose to ignore the ruling, and Abbott announced he would still refuse to let federal agents access the border. This order received support from 25 out of the 26 other Republican governors in the country, and a few, such as far-right Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, sent their own national guard to Eagle Pass to support Texas. 

By this point it became clear to others in the Democratic Party that unless Biden was willing to put his foot down, the political crisis would continue, so Texas representatives Greg Casar and Joaquin Castro called on Biden to nationalize the Texas National Guard, as Dwight Eisenhower did in Arkansas during the 1957 Little Rock crisis.  

But Biden, for whatever reason, has so far failed to respond to the crisis. Abbott and Republicans have been gloating in the media about how they have made Biden out to be a fool. And Biden has made essentially no public comments on the situation.

How many more families will have to die for Biden to finally take action? One more? Two more? A hundred more? There is no clear answer, and every day that passes without action to stop Abbott further undermines Biden’s credibility as someone who supposedly fights for justice.

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About the Contributors
Cam Lippincott, Managing Editor
Blake Amis, Graphic Artist

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