I’m often asked which of the two major political parties is better on immigration. It’s a trick question. They’re both dreadful.
Lawmakers have mastered the game of doing nothing except misleading their constituents. Democrats campaign by portraying themselves as immigrants’ best friend; once in office, they build walls, militarize the border and deport people in record numbers.
Republicans campaign by opposing “amnesty” and praising law and order; once in office, they create enforcement loopholes in order to stabilize the workforce, quietly push for legal status for the undocumented and refuse to crack down on employers.
At the moment, it’s hard to decide what is more disconnected from reality: Donald Trump’s hardhearted and wrongheaded immigration policy, or the phony outrage by Democrats, liberals, Latinos and reformers who are shocked that Trump is threatening to deport millions and divide families. For nearly seven years, these groups had little to say when President Barack Obama did exactly that.
Predictably, many of those Democrats who made excuses for Obama, or just went out of their way to ignore the fact that he was driving up deportation numbers likely for the sake of politics, are now supporting Hillary Clinton for president.
This would be the same Clinton who, obviously not afraid of hardball questioning, recently sat down with renowned Hispanic “journalist” Mario Lopez to declare she was deeply troubled by Trump’s harsh tone toward immigrants. See, Democrats only pick up the immigration issue when they can use it as a club to pummel Republicans.
At least by fielding questions from Lopez, host of the entertainment news program “Extra,” Clinton didn’t have to worry that she might be asked about why, while serving in the Senate in 2003, she felt the need to declare on a New York radio show that she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”
Nor did she have to worry that she might be asked about her Senate vote for the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The bill called for the construction of an additional 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the time, she told the New York Daily News in Trumpesque language, “a country that cannot control its borders is failing at one of its fundamental obligations.”
Nor did Clinton have to explain, while the refugee crisis continues in Europe, why she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last summer, that unaccompanied children who fled violence in Central America by streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border “should be sent back.” At the time, Clinton coolly declared: “We have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”
And just because you’re a Democrat — or more precisely, not a Republican — doesn’t mean that you get to count on receiving the votes of Latinos, even when you don’t deserve them.
Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Trump may be small-minded but he thinks big when it comes to getting rid of illegal immigrants.
The GOP front-runner — who this week got a prolonged standing ovation from a 15,000-person crowd in Dallas when he said we have to stop illegal immigration — recently assured supporters on a call that, with his management skills, he could move 11 million illegal immigrants out of the country within two years.
What a slacker. If you talk to illegal immigrants, they will offer you a counterassurance that if they get deported, with their survival skills, they’ll be back on this side of the border within two weeks.
In the media coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe, we’re told by migration experts that immigrants who have traveled more than a thousand miles to get from Syria to Hungary, with the hope of going on to Germany, France or Great Britain, will not simply give up and go home when they encounter barbed-wire fences or are forcibly put onto buses. They will press ahead. They will never give up.
You don’t say? That kind of determination isn’t limited to refugees flowing into Europe.
Back in the United States, a New York-based cable news anchor recently asked me why illegal immigrants couldn’t be “permanently deported.” The answer: human nature. Whether we call them immigrants or refugees, those who will risk their lives for a shot at something better are serious people engaged in a serious endeavor.
It’s too bad that we can’t say the same about our elected officials and presidential candidates.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group.