In last week’s televised debate, the top Democratic presidential candidates had a lot to say about how they saw President Trump and his immigration policies being racist, cruel and not representative of the American people. They spoke in the language of political platitudes about the benefits of immigration and the benefits they would give legal and illegal immigrants. But not one single word about how they would enforce the law.
Their silence was not by accident. The tactical decision to stick to drawing caricatures of the president and avoid coloring inside the policy lines with specifics. As the New York Times even recognized, Democrats “have spent most of their efforts on dismantling the Trump administration’s policies, without really laying out how, if elected, they would handle illegal border crossings, eliminate a growing immigration court backlog, direct immigration enforcement or address the root causes of migration from Central America.”
Chris Newman, the legal director for the pro-immigrant rights National Day Laborer Organizing Network, put in less-diplomatic terms, telling the Times on the eve of the debate that the goal of Democrats “is to make white women in the suburbs cry about Trump’s treatment of migrants and then pivot to health care.”
Since Trump has prevented them from issue-shifting, Newman predicts Democrats will adopt “a lesser-of-two-evils strategy as they have been for many years” when it comes to the general election.
The problem for any Democrat who adopts this strategy is that it is their policies, may not be seen as the lesser of two evils, according to some former Obama administration officials. When they step off the stage and stop posturing with platitudes and pot-shots at Trump, their amnesty first policies do not resonate with mainstream Americans.
In an interview over the weekend, former Obama attorney general Eric Holder dismissed the idea proposed by presidential candidate Julian Castro to decriminalize illegal immigration.
“Democrats have to understand that … borders do mean something,” said Holder while being interviewed by former Obama adviser David Axelrod on CNN.
Holder went on to note that the law making unauthorized border crossing illegal is a “law that’s been on the books has been there for about 100 years now or so.” For good reason.
“It might send the wrong signal, but it would certainly take a tool away from the Justice Department that it might want to use for an individual case and for some reason,” added Holder, who has been a fierce critic of the Trump administration.
Former Obama Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson also argued that “talk about deprioritizing the deportation of those apprehended at the border or decriminalizing illegal immigration” is “going way too far to the left of the American consensus on where [Democrats] should be on this.”
He added that if illegal immigration is decriminalized that would put U.S. Border Patrol agents in an “impossible” situation of essentially telling those they arrest that “you get to stay here unless you commit a crime.” That, Johnson said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday, which “simply incentivizes more illegal immigration” and would result in losing control of our borders.
“Look, most Americans want to be fair and treated in a humane way,” but will see a formal move toward decriminalization ‘en masse’ is not where the American people are,” he concluded.