The Stream, August 29, 2016
If you compare the immigration planks of the two party platforms in 2016, you'd think they were addressing completely different constituents. The Democratic platform focuses almost exclusively on serving immigrants (legal and illegal), while the Republican platform welcomes legal immigrants but seeks to put the interests of American citizens first.
The Democrats: Huddled Buzzwords
The Democrats' drafting committee ticked off every cliché. Statue of Liberty? Check. "System is broken"? Check. "Tears families apart"? Check. "In the shadows" appears three times. "Illegal" does not appear once. To get a sense of the emotive tone, here's just one passage, with my emphases:
Democrats believe we need to urgently fix our broken immigration system — which tears families apart and keeps workers in the shadows — and create a path to citizenship for law-abiding families who are here, making a better life for their families and contributing to their communities and our country. We should repeal the 3-year, 10-year and permanent bars, which often force persons in mixed status families into the heartbreaking dilemma of either pursuing a green card by leaving the country and their loved ones behind, or remaining in the shadows. We will work with Congress to end the forced and prolonged expulsion from the country that these immigrants endure when trying to adjust their status.
One pious reference to "legal immigration, within reasonable limits" toward the start of the section is followed by 865 words that negate limits in every imaginable way. The first order of business is amnesty:
And while we continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform [amnesty for all illegals, among other things], we will defend and implement President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [Obama's unilateral amnesty for illegals who came before age 16] and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans [amnesty for illegal aliens with U.S.-born kids – held up in court] executive actions to help DREAMers, parents of citizens, and lawful permanent residents avoid deportation. We will build on these actions to provide relief for others, such as parents of DREAMers [A lawless amnesty decree that was a bridge too far even for Obama]. We will support efforts by states to make DREAMers eligible for driver's licenses and in-state college tuition.
The Democrats insist: "We will work to ensure that all Americans — regardless of immigration status — have access to quality health care." A whole committee of Democratic policy and political figures saw no problem with referring to aliens (legal or even illegal) as "Americans." Citizenship? We don't need no stinkin' citizenship.
The platform is faithful to Hillary's televised pledge never to deport any illegal alien unless he is first convicted of a violent felony. Nancy Pelosi expressed the same view in a 2013 interview with NBC: "Our view of the law is that it, if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation."
The Democrats oppose any meaningful enforcement: No raids of worksites employing illegal immigrants, no arrests of any illegal aliens with children, taxpayer-funded lawyers for all minors smuggled into the country by their illegal-alien relatives who preceded them, no detention for illegal immigrants to ensure that they appear for hearings (few non-detained illegals bother to show up).
And then there's legal immigration. Despite the throwaway line about "reasonable limits," there's no suggestion of what those limits might be, even in theory. All references to legal immigration call for higher levels and quicker processing, translating into the bedrock goal of the left (and the corporate and libertarian right) to admit anyone and everyone who wants to come and isn't a terrorist.
The immigration activists who wrote this sentence had just that in mind: "The immigration bureaucracy is full of backlogs that result in U.S. citizens waiting for decades to be reunited with family members." "Backlogs" here is actually a lie. What causes prospective immigrants to have to wait years for a green card is not "backlogs" — but rather waiting lists, since there is effectively unlimited demand for numerically limited categories. So the platform here is calling for the elimination of numerical caps on the immigration of relatives — i.e., unlimited immigration.
The Republican Platform: Stop the Flood
The 2012 GOP platform was full of tough talk on enforcement that was accompanied by calls for increased legal immigration and "temporary" worker programs. The 2016 GOP platform takes a tougher line on both legal and illegal immigration, and is night-and-day different from the Democratic platform.
The Republican platform acknowledges the basic distinction between immigrant policy – how we treat those whom we've invited to join our society — and immigration policy — how many newcomers to admit in the future, how to select them and how to enforce those rules.
The document salutes the foreign-born in our armed forces and calls on Americans to "to embrace the newcomers legally among us, assist their journey to full citizenship and help their communities avoid isolation from the mainstream of society."
These admirable — even morally essential — sentiments regarding immigrants are accompanied by a note of caution rooted perhaps in the assumption that a flood of cheap immigrant labor holds down, and even drives down, wages for U.S. citizens: "The greatest asset of the American economy is the American worker," the GOP platform states. "Our immigration system must protect American working families and their wages, for citizens and legal immigrants alike, in a way that will improve the economy."
And a little further down: "America's immigration policy must serve the national interest of the United States, and the interests of American workers must be protected over the claims of foreign nationals seeking the same jobs."
A Tougher Line
The 2016 GOP platform is bullish on enforcement: "Our highest priority, therefore, must be to secure our borders and all ports of entry and to enforce our immigration laws." The specifics include rejection of amnesty; a wall along the entire Mexican border; mandatory nationwide use of the E-Verify system so employers can check whether their new hires are here legally; prosecution of ID theft and fraud; mandatory minimum prison sentences for deported illegals who return ("Kate's Law"); no federal funds for sanctuary cities; no driver's licenses for illegals; and more.
There's also skepticism this year about high levels of legal immigration and worker visas. Backing up the pro-worker sentiments at the beginning of the immigration plank is the following:
In light of both current needs and historic practice, we urge the reform of our guest worker programs to eliminate fraud, improve efficiency and ensure they serve the national interest. In light of the alarming levels of unemployment and underemployment in this country, it is indefensible to continue offering lawful permanent residence to more than one million foreign nationals every year.
The ambiguity of the guest worker reference is no doubt intended to avoid provoking business interests, but it is clearly responding to the outrages over the past several years, where American workers at Disney and many other firms were required to train their foreign replacements. And the call for reduction in overall legal immigration — even as it lacks specifics — is unprecedented.
And one other unprecedented element of this year's immigration plank: An acknowledgement of Americans killed by illegal aliens released by the Obama administration. "We stand with the victims of his policies, especially the families of murdered innocents."
The contrast, then, is clear. The Democratic immigration policy is based on the interests of immigrants; the Republican on the interests of Americans.