Immigrant advocates now denouncing President Biden forget the U.S. needs to reform asylum and aid Ukraine — and that doing both can help ease America’s immigration calamity.
I received an email from several local immigrant advocate organizations this week — and it helped remind me, frankly, how politically short-sighted immigrant advocates themselves can be when it comes to fixing America’s immigration mess.
Don’t get me wrong; I applaud the humane work they do to help immigrants — especially in a state like Florida, where politicians shamelessly stroke their xenophobic MAGA base by demonizing the same migrant labor that keeps whole sectors of this peninsula’s economy afloat.
But this particular email felt self-defeating. It was a call to get out during President Biden’s visit to South Florida this week and protest his immigration negotiations with Republicans.
And it troubled me on two important counts.
First, it denounced the sort of policy concessions Biden is having to make in order to ameliorate fears that even liberal voters harbor about the disaster on the U.S. southern border — an emergency that threatens to bury his re-election bid and lift Donald Trump to the presidency again. The key issue is a wrecked asylum system and growing demands to tighten and manage it again — instead of letting it continue to be the get-into-America-free turnstile that’s drawing unprecedented waves of migrants to the Rio Grande.
Even the New York Times — not exactly Fox News, guys — has been warning of that dysfunction for some time. In a new analysis this week, Times immigration writer Miriam Jordan reminds us that largely because of the asylum system’s nuclear meltdown, “[i]n December alone, more than 300,000 people crossed the southern border, a record number.
“It is not just because they believe they will be able to make it across the 2,000 mile southern frontier,” Jordan notes. “They are also certain that once they make it to the United States they will be able to stay.
Her point: that’s not how Americans or the citizens of any nation expect their immigration system to be run. And as I’ve written before, in commentaries that get me lots of angry e-mails from liberals, those open-border optics promise anti-immigration political consequences — namely, the White House return of immigrant-demonizer-in-chief Trump
Nonetheless, the South Florida immigrant advocates this week accused Biden of dealing “with radical Republicans to dismantle our asylum system.”
No, he hasn’t. Nor has he “sold out immigrants to fund war efforts,” as the advocates’ email goes on to assert.
Which brings me to their second distressing mistake: a failure to appreciate how the tragedy in Ukraine affects the tragedies in all the radioactive pockets of this hemisphere — especially Venezuela — that are driving so many desperate migrants northward.
The advocates blast Biden for haggling with the GOP over immigration in order to secure new funding to help Ukraine beat back Russia’s invasion. Like Trump himself, the advocates apparently think the U.S. shouldn’t be involved there.
Again, that’s not only the wrong stance — it’s also self-defeating. Wrong because the U.S. has a serious stake in thwarting Vladimir Putin’s barbaric aggression against not only Ukraine but democracy worldwide. Self-defeating because letting Putin have his way only emboldens Putin wannabes — like Venezuelan President/Dictator Nicolás Maduro — whose authoritarian catastrophes are largely responsible for the immigration catastrophe the U.S. is living now.
Or have the advocates not heard that last fall Venezuelans became the largest national group arrested for crossing the southern border illegally?
Since Maduro took power a decade ago, more than a fifth of Venezuela’s population has fled the country’s humanitarian crisis — the worst in modern South American history. As long as he and his tyrannical socialist regime remain in power, the situation only stands to get worse.
In recent days thaty regime has made it chillingly clear it has no intention of allowing a free and fair presidential election this year, which Maduro would likely lose. This week it called the U.S. “yanqui mierda,” or Yankee shit, for threatening to re-impose economic sanctions if it doesn’t allow the Venezuelan opposition’s primary election winner, María Corina Machado, to challenge him.
So it would seem the last thing the U.S. wants to show the despot of a migrant-disgorging country like Venezuela is that the U.S. can’t stand up to a monster like Putin.
If you’re an immigrant advocate, that’s a short-sighted invitation to more — and more politically costly — immigration mess.
Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas editor, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.. His work appears under a partnership between WLRN and the Key Biscayne Independent.