Writing in The New Yorker, Andrew Sullivan argues that “The result [of our policies as implemented] is not formally one of open borders. But they sure are ajar.”
I’m an immigrant myself. But it doesn’t answer a simple question. What do we do when the caravan gets here? And more saliently: What do we do if many more caravans show up behind it? This is not an abstract question. It’s a pressing, practical, and in some ways existential one. It cuts to the core of whether the United States has to choose between being inhumane to the point of betraying some core moral principles and remaining a sovereign nation in control of who joins its population.
Sullivan also argues that as long as “the West” remains more peaceful, prosperous, and free than much of the world, and the cost and danger of travel continues to drop, “the logic of mass migration north is close to unassailable.”
All of it is putting unprecedented strain on liberal democracy in the West itself. The connection between mass migration and the surge in far-right parties in Europe is now indisputable. Without this issue, Donald Trump would not be president. As we can see right now in front of our eyes, elections can turn on this. Which is why Trump is hyping this caravan story to the heavens — and why, perhaps, the last few weeks have seemed less promising for a “blue wave.” David Frum is right: “If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do.” And unless the Democrats get a grip on this question, and win back the trust of the voters on it, their chance of regaining the presidency is minimal. Until one Democratic candidate declares that he or she will end illegal immigration, period, shift legal immigration toward those with skills, invest in the immigration bureaucracy, and enforce the borders strongly but humanely, Trump will continue to own this defining policy issue in 2020.
This is not a passing crisis. It is the new normal, and its optics do nothing but intensify the cultural panic that is turning much of the West to authoritarianism as a response. The porousness of the West’s borders are, in other words, becoming a guarantee of the West’s liberal democratic demise. This particular caravan will take a while to make it to the U.S. border, if it ever does. It will surely lose some followers on the way. It may peter out altogether.
But the caravan as a symbol? Its days are just beginning.
On the same subject… Michal Brendan Dougherty wonders what is keeping liberals from speaking truth to power:
Shouldn’t it be easy for Pelosi and Schumer to just say that the people in the caravan should not be allowed to walk right into the country, that any legitimate asylum claims will be processed according to the normal fashion, and that they advise anyone, especially vulnerable people, against making a 1,000-mile journey through Mexico with people they do not know? Maybe it should be easy to say that, but it isn’t.
In a way, it’s odd that Democrats can’t at least pay lip service to immigration enforcement. After all, their recent promises on the matter have been taken in the same spirit as Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s onetime opposition to same-sex marriage. These are things Democrats feel compelled to say to appease a retrograde electorate, but they don’t mean it and they won’t follow through on it.
And that factors into why “comprehensive” reform is well nigh impossible – not only here but throughout the West:
Conservative voters and immigration restrictionists know that they have been snookered in the past. The 1986 amnesty was given in exchange for a promise of strict enforcement. The amnesty ended up being much larger than expected, and the enforcement never came. Given this history, and the arrangement of political power, and the increased power of pro-immigration activists in the Democratic coalition, restrictionists naturally conclude that liberals in 2018 lack the moral will and the political incentive to follow through on promises of strict enforcement, especially in cases where there is media spectacle.
America’s Democrats are not alone in this. European heads of state and EU functionaries worked hard to create the Dublin Accords, which govern migration and asylum policies on the European Union’s borders. But the commitment to these rules evaporated under the migration crisis in 2014 and 2015.
That this is such a persistent phenomenon on two sides of the Atlantic suggests that there is something within the anthropology and worldview of modern liberalism that makes maintaining the distinctions between citizens and non-citizens difficult at moments of stress.
I suspect it is a commitment to egalitarianism that takes legal distinctions between citizens and non-citizens to be “unreal” or fictive, which implies that enforcement of them at moral cost is unjust.
The Democrats’ ability to kid themselves about their commitment to border enforcement is one of the reasons America’s debate about immigration is so deranged. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer want to avoid the subject of the caravan for a very good reason. Because now it has become obvious. In order to pass legislation, they ask Republicans and restrictionists to believe their commitments to enforcement. Out of the other side of their mouth, to avoid primary challenges and hassle, they ask activists not to.