“Open borders is a right-wing talking point,” exclaimed former Obama Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro during the second night of the Democratic presidential debates in Detroit.
The talking point to which Castro was referring to was a Washington Post op-ed by Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s former homeland security secretary, in which he wrote that decriminalizing illegal immigration was “tantamount to a public declaration” that “our borders are effectively open to all.”
Castro then added that he was “disappointed that some folks, including some folks on this stage, have taken the bait.”
The main problem with Castro’s argument is that it is simply wrong. The policies which were championed on the stage over two nights this week are – or will lead to – an immigration policy that can only be described as open borders.
Decriminalization, which Castro placed at the center of his campaign platform, is just the start. Several candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey, want to open the door to closing private detention centers, a restructuring of the Homeland Security department and sanctuary policies.
Those who oppose decriminalization include Johnson, former Vice President Joe Biden, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.
Oh, and 66 percent of Americans and 47 percent of Democratic voters, according to a July NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. That survey also showed that even among self-identified progressive Democrats, a slight majority (54 percent) favor decriminalization.
The view of the Democratic Party as one of open borders is shared by more than just the right-wing.
“Apart from the most anodyne of statements, it is almost impossible to separate their policies from what in effect is open borders, since they have offered no specific policies, other than the near-utopian notion of making Central American nations free of endemic poverty and rampaging gang violence,” observed author and former ABC News reporter Jeff Greenfield.
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum conceded in a piece accurately titled, “Are Democrats Now the Party of Open Borders?” that while he had in the past criticized “Republicans who accused liberals of wanting ‘open borders,’” he acknowledges it is “hard to see much daylight between [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren’s plan and de facto open borders.”
After listing a litany of anti-enforcement proposals, Drum asks the reader, “Am I missing something here? Does Warren’s plan explicitly make it vanishingly unlikely that anyone crossing our border will ever be caught and sent back?”
Sen. Booker joined Castro in trying to assert that objecting to open borders policies was somehow playing into Republican hands. When Biden said he favored an immigration approach that was merit-based, the former Newark mayor contended that the former vice president was “playing into what the Republicans want, to pit some immigrants against other immigrants.”
“No, it’s not. Favoring immigrants based on merit criteria, such as job skills and advanced degrees, has been a Democratic idea since the 1960s,” wrote William Saletan of the liberal online magazine Slate.
Castro and Booker were trying mightily to use language to neutralize the few moderate voices that were heard on the stage in Detroit, but the chorus of candidates were singing a definitively open borders tune.