by Rachael Bovard
The evidence that Democrats are now an unapologetically open borders party is piling up, and Republicans need to start calling them on it.
From opposing expanded detention facilities, actively blocking legislation to fix family separation policies, and even voting against legislation that would prohibit illegal immigrants from voting, it’s becoming abundantly clear what Democrats want out of U.S. immigration policy: open borders, new voters, and a system that never actually gets fixed, so they can use it as a cudgel against Republicans.
Consider that just days after the family separation policy erupted, Republicans brought bills to the floor to fix the 1997 Flores settlement—the governing legal agreement which doesn’t allow children to be detained longer than 20 days. In practice, this means that individuals or families who show up with a minor are either separated from that minor and detained for processing, or the entire family unit is simply released into the interior of the country while awaiting a court date.
Republicans brought legislation to the floor of the Senate which would vitiate the Flores settlement and allow family units here illegally to be detained and processed together. But Democrats, after howling about the cruelty of the Trump administration’s strict reading of the current separation law, then turned around and repeatedly blocked Republican efforts to fix it.
The move was transparently cynical. Democrats were “unwilling to have the votes that it takes to make sure family units stay together,” observed U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK), “because the drama of tearing families apart looks so much better on TV.”
Big Crisis, No Money
Democrats’ response to huge surges in illegal crossings has been equally craven. In just the first four months of fiscal year 2019, more illegal crossers have been apprehended than in the entirety of last fiscal year. In March, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) apprehended more than 100,000 crossers, the highest monthly total in over a decade. CBP officials have called it a “system-wide emergency.”
Yet Democrats, who continue to raise ire about migrants being temporarily held under bridges and the overrun conditions of existing detention facilities, refuse to give CBP more resources for the purpose of safely, securely, and humanely housing illegal crossers.
During shutdown negotiations in January, Democrats resisted Republican efforts to send more detention resources to the border. They pushed to limit the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) beds to 16,500 beds per day, and reduce the overall number of available beds to less than 36,000. They did this with the full knowledge that ICE had close to 50,000 illegal immigrants in custody.
Just this week, the administration requested $4.5 billion from Congress to help stem the tide of what they called “a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border.” Of that sum, $3.3 billion is for humanitarian assistance, including child welfare services and housing for thousands of unaccompanied minors. Current funds for this program will be exhausted by June.
Another $1.1 billion is for facilities expenses, including enhanced detention to house the increased surge of unaccompanied minors and families.
Predictably, the Democrats—again, the party that routinely decries the Trump Administration’s treatment of migrants—have already stated their opposition for more funds to address humanitarian and housing needs.
Apparently they prefer the status quo at the border: overrun facilities, rampant sexual assault, and unchecked human trafficking.
The Return of “Catch-and-Release”
Their cynicism is obvious—they’d rather score political points from the existing chaos than actually solve the problem—but so is their long-term goal of open borders, and future voters.
Without appropriate detention facilities to house illegal crossers, CPB is forced simply to release those they apprehend. “Catch-and-release” was the Obama Administration’s policy, and the one Democrats would prefer to maintain.
Combine this with Democrats’ wild opposition to President Trump’s attempts to put a question about citizenship (not illegal status; just citizenship) on the 2020 Census; their open support of sanctuary jurisdictions—cities that take federal immigration enforcement money but refuse to abide by federal immigration law); and the recent vote by House Democrats who almost unanimously opposed a prohibition on allowing illegal immigrants to vote, and it becomes obvious that their opposition to Trump and Republicans has nothing at all to do with the welfare of illegal immigrants.
Rather, it has everything to do with political power, money, and securing future voters.
More GOP Neglect
Republicans have done a poor job of making this plain. Instead of forcing Democrats to repeatedly and publicly oppose legislation to fix family separation and improve facilities and humanitarian care at the border, they hide from the issue, allowing Democrats to control every angle of the narrative.
Instead of trumpeting statistics on the $2.3 billion cartels made on the backs of Central American migrants in 2017, or the horrific stories of sexual abuse reported on by everyone from the New York Times to Doctors Without Borders, Republicans (with a few exceptions) largely prefer to pretend none of it is happening.
They do so at their own peril. Washington may not want to address immigration, but the issue is still trending in a significant way among voters. A recent Gallup poll called out “the government” and “immigration” “as the only two issues cited by more than one in 10 Americans—as they have been for all but one of the past 13 months.”
With their inaction, rhetorical and otherwise, Republicans are allowing Democrats to tar them on the immigration issue, while Democrats get to keep quietly obstructing the policy outcomes they say they want. It’s time for Republicans to stop allowing Democrats to speak out of both sides of their mouths.
Democrats have evolved into a party of open borders. When will the Republicans start making them own it?
– – –
Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute. Beginning in 2006, she served in both the House and Senate in various roles including as legislative director for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and more.