Panel Transcript: Trump vs. Biden on Immigration

By Mark Krikorian, Andrew R. Arthur, and Mickey Kaus on October 21, 2020


Press Release

Panel Video

Facebook Live Stream

YouTube Live Stream

Twitter Stream

Reports and Blogs

Joe Biden's Immigration Plan: The former vice president should know better

Trump’s Immigration Record

Immigration Affects the Issues Most Important to Voters

Biden vs. Trump: The Wall

Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden on Border Control

Trump vs. Biden: Worksite Enforcement

Event Summary

The Center for Immigration Studies hosted a panel analyzing the presidential candidates' positions on immigration and how immigration policy may be impacted by the November 3 election. 


Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies

Andrew Arthur
Resident Fellow in Law and Policy
Center for Immigration Studies

Mickey Kaus
Author, The End of Equality
Kausfiles Newsletter

MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon. My name is Mark Krikorian. I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. And we’re doing this virtual discussion today – we’re calling it “Trump vs. Biden on Immigration” – in part because neither political campaign is actually talking very much about immigration, and we’ll maybe speculate about why that’s so a little later in the discussion. But it needs to be discussed because immigration really is one of the most important issues facing the country. Even if you – you know, people respond to polls that it’s moved down the ladder, down the list of issues that people give as their number-one issue, and that’s true – like I said, we’ll maybe talk a little bit about that, about why that is – but the fact is immigration is a meta issues. It covers – it affects everything. It affects jobs and health care and criminal justice and national security and what have you, and so it really is something that needs to get aired a little more in and important election like we’re facing today. And we have two guests with us to help talk about and explore this issue. First, Mickey Kaus is a writer who’s author or editor or owner or whatever you want to call it of Kausfiles. He pretty much was one of the inventors of political blogging and has written a lot about the immigration issue. I don’t know if he adds this part to his résumé anymore, but also a former Senate candidate in California – an unsuccessful one, which is why he’s here with us. And our other guest is Andrew Arthur. Only his mother calls his “Andrew.” It’s Art. Art Arthur is on CIS’s staff as our legal analyst. A formal trial attorney for the old INS, longtime Hill staffer, immigration judge, has extraordinarily broad experience in the nuts and bolts of how immigration policy works. And each of us is going to sort of speak for a few minutes. This isn’t going to be a long presentation – we want to have more of a back-and-forth discussion – but we wanted to lay some of the groundwork. And what I wanted to briefly go over first is some of the accomplishments in immigration that this administration has seen. There’s, obviously, been a number of screwups, as it were – in other words, sins of commission – but also sins of omission in the sense of things that the administration really did not take on that it could have, and in my opinion at least probably should have. But there are a number of areas where the administration has made some real changes, and those changes have been more significant than you might think given the determined, I mean almost maniacal opposition from the other side. And just a few – I didn’t want to go into a lot of detail on this, but in a few things. For instance, on the wall, there’s been criticism from people in the president’s own camp that the wall isn’t getting built or this is a broken promise. The fact is there has been significant progress on the wall. Some places there’s actually wall that – or whatever you want to call it, barriers – where there was nothing before, but a lot of it has actually been replacement of dilapidated barriers that, frankly, don’t count as barriers in any meaningful way. When you replace a corroded piece of metal that’s six or seven feet high with a brand-new 30-foot bollard wall, that’s a new wall. There actually is some progress happening on that. For those of you who are interested in more detail on that, the Heritage Foundation actually tomorrow is going to be having a virtual discussion. I don’t think it’s all on the wall, but I think their starting point is the wall and kind of what’s happened there, and the DHS secretary is going to be speaking. So that might be worth tuning in to as well. Other areas. This administration has made real changes. They’re succeeded in, at least for now, stopping the flow of bogus asylum-seekers – people using claims of asylum, especially if they brought kids with them, as a means of being released into the United States. The administration has significantly both cut back on the number of refugees being admitted and made sure that those who are being admitted are more likely to actually be real refugees really in need of resettlement, and tried to give local communities more of a say so. Likewise, there’s a new regulation on what is called technically public-charge rules. In other words – that’s a 19th-century term. The point is to try to make sure that new immigrants are more likely to be self-sufficient. That’s tied up in court, as many other things are, but that’s a real advance over what we had before. There’s also been a modest – not enough, in my opinion, but a modest increase in worksite enforcement; in other words, in trying to turn the magnet of jobs off. And likewise, there’s been some movement in the administration to try to bring some more order and improve the white-collar guestworker programs, the H-1B and things like that. There were a couple of new rules issued last week. There’s already a lawsuit to try to stop them. But there has been some real movement on immigration policy. And my last point here as evidence is the – as evidence of that is that the Census Bureau does seem to show that there was a slowdown in the growth of the immigrant population. In other words – and this is before COVID – even when the economy was hot, immigration did, in fact – does, in fact, respond to policy changes. It’s not just something that’s beyond our control like the continental drift or the weather. We can, in fact, affect it through policy, and the administration does seem to have done it. I mean, they haven’t really – it’s not as though we’ve seen any huge reductions or anything like that, but the immigration – the immigrant population has, in fact – the growth of it has slowed significantly. So the point is we’ve seen some real changes with regard to immigration policy. The policy has had significant effect. And so what next I wanted to do is briefly have Art Arthur talk about, based on a series of posts he’s done at our site,, what are the top three differences between the two candidates. Obviously, Biden and Trump have very different approaches to immigration, but just to sort of get things started what in his opinion really are kind of the three most salient. So if, Art, you could go, and then we’re going to go to Mickey. ANDREW R. ARTHUR: Thank you, Mark. Yeah, it’s interesting because a lot of the Biden administration proposals are reactions to what the Trump administration has done, but in reality what the Trump administration has done really wasn’t that different from what the Obama-Biden administration did, particularly in three specific areas. The first is interior enforcement. Last year DHS deported from the interior of the United States – that’s people actually living in this country – just less than 86,000 people. Ninety-one percent of those individuals either had criminal convictions or criminal arrests. The Obama-Biden administration in their last year removed about 65,000 individuals from the interior. Ninety-two percent of those had criminal convictions. So that 20,000 difference might seem significant. However, in FY 2011 the Obama-Biden administration actually removed from the interior about 351,000 individuals, only about 62 percent of whom had criminal convictions. But Biden is opposed to what Trump has done in the interior – again, even though it’s not significantly different from what the Obama-Biden administration did. The former vice president vows that he will have a moratorium on removals. There will be no removals within the first hundred days of the Biden-Harris administration, and thereafter he’s only going to deport felons or individuals who have committed felonies within the United States. Now, again, we’re not sure how he defines felonies, but the one thing that we do know is that it does not include people who have been convicted of drunk driving, even drunk driving as a felony. I’ll note that under the 2014 priorities memo that former Secretary Jeh Johnson put out in November 2014 individuals who had been convicted of DUI actually were a priority. They were a number-two priority. Felonies were a number-one priority, and that includes DUI felonies. Certainly, you know, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, things like that are themselves felonies. But a President Biden vows not to deport those individuals. The second major thing that the Biden administration vows to undo are the responses that the Trump administration has made in response to the events that occurred at the border, particularly in FY 2019. In May of 2019 we saw 144,000 individuals enter the United States illegally and be apprehended by Border Patrol. That swamped not just Customs and Border Protection’s resources, but the resources of DHS and to a large degree the resources of the federal government as a whole. In response to that, the Trump administration has done three major things – actually, four. One, they’ve worked with the Mexican government in order to ensure that the Mexican government secures its southern border, which has limited the number of individuals who we call in immigration OTMs, or other than Mexicans, coming to the United States to make claims. Two, it’s enacted the Migrant Protection Protocols. That’s also known as return to Mexico, where individuals who have asylum claims are, with the consent of the Mexican government – and these are all OTMs – being returned to Mexico to await their immigration hearings. About 50 percent of those people don’t show up to make their asylum claims. Three, the Trump administration has required that OTMs make an asylum claim in the first safe country that they’ve come to, and Mexico has actually expanded its capacity to handle those asylum claims in the last two years. Four, the president has entered into safe third country agreements with countries that will take OTMs who are not nationals of their own countries and hear their asylum claims within their countries, and that’s a diplomatic effort. The Biden administration vows to undo all of those three things – or all of those – the last three. We’re a little unclear as to what exactly they’re going to do with respect to the Mexican government, but I seriously doubt that the Biden administration will carry over those administrative efforts. These are all really necessary because of three major loopholes in the law. One is the 2016 Ninth Circuit decision in Flores versus Lynch – Loretta Lynch being the attorney general under the Obama-Biden administration, the second one – and that required that minors traveling with their parents be released within 20 days of apprehension, which meant that their parents got released too. A bipartisan panel report last April found that that was a significant factor that drew individuals to enter the United States with children, and that those children actually were submitted to significant trauma by the travel to the United States. Two is the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the William Wilberforce Act, which encouraged individuals in the United States to pay smugglers to bring their children to the United States. Again, those children suffered significant trauma. But you know, that has continued. The third major factor is a low credible-fear standard. The Obama administration does not – or the Biden administration does not plan on carrying forward improvements in the Flores – regulations that were introduced by the Trump administration in response to Flores that would turn off that magnet, and it doesn’t want to do anything at all with respect to TVPRA or with respect to credible fear. In fact, it wants to make it easier for aliens to obtain asylum in the United States if they’re apprehended at the border. That will likely encourage more individuals to enter the United States illegally. The third major change, as Mark alluded to, has to do with the wall. President Trump vowed famously in 2016 to build a wall across the southwest border and make Mexico pay for it. Well, Mexico hasn’t paid for it, but at the present time the Trump administration has completed about 360 miles of either new or replacement wall. It’s important for those who have never been to the border to understand how dilapidated and ineffective that old wall was that was replaced. It’s been replaced primarily by bollard fencing – that’s steel with concrete inserts – anywhere between 18 to 30 feet tall in order to dissuade individuals from entering the United States. It’s important to note that Senator Biden voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which called for the erection of about 700 miles of wall along the southwest border. And in fact, the Obama-Biden administration constructed about 110 miles of that wall and had requested funding on a lesser and lesser basis each year. So this is definitely a situation where the former vice president has changed because he’s vowed that he will not build one more foot of wall. One of the things that President Trump – if he’s elected. One of the other things that President Trump did was he reprogrammed DOD funding, primarily antidrug funding, to construction of barriers along the border. And then, of course, that’s been tied up in litigation, but the Supreme Court has allowed it to go forward. The Biden administration vows to end that reprogramming right away. And again, as noted, candidate Biden has vowed that President Biden will not build one more foot of wall. So those are the three major changes between the Trump administration and the Biden administration, or three major differences between the two campaigns. MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Art. So, Mickey, I mean, Art’s laid out at least some of the kind of top-level differences between the two campaigns. They, obviously, have enormous differences on this – on this issue. What are your thoughts about why we’re not hearing more about this? MICKEY KAUS: Well, it is interesting. A couple of years ago this was one of the top three issues. Now it’s hardly even mentioned in the campaign at all, and that’s a couple of factors. One, Biden has, obviously, decided it’s not a good issue for him. He’s competing for working-class votes in swing states Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They’re the ballgame, just as they were four years ago. And those voters, they’re areas where they’re not like California, where I am, where there’s been massive immigrant presence for decades. Immigrants are relatively new and they’re competing for jobs and lowering wages, and working-class voters don’t much like that. And if you even look at the Democrats’ – at Biden’s platform, immigration is always the last thing. So you have to scroll through 50 screens to get to it. They don’t – they don’t want to talk about it. And since the media is generally, I think it’s fair to say, favorable to Biden and unfavorable to Trump’s immigration stand, they don’t want to talk about it either. So it hasn’t been mentioned in the last debate by the – by the moderator and it’s not scheduled to be mentioned in the final debate this week. The mystery is why Trump didn’t bring it up, since if it doesn’t work for Biden it does – should work for Trump. It’s a zero-sum game. And I attribute that mainly to Trump’s strategy of somehow taking the immigrant vote for granted and wooing suburban moms and trying to peel off a larger share of the Latino vote. And that’s generally associated with Jared Kushner, his campaign manager, and we’ll see how that works. I bet Trump brings it up in the last debate even if it’s not technically on the agenda. It does seem to me that amnesty and a revival of the old Gang of Eight bill is another huge issue and maybe the biggest issue. Biden, it’s in his platform. You have to look for a bit, but it’s there: A path to citizenship, or amnesty for all 11.5 million or however many there are undocumented immigrants in the United States. And that seems to me, in addition to the things that Andrew pointed out, it’s a huge – a huge change because in the long term people living abroad will say, well, gee, we had a big amnesty in 1986 and then we had a second amnesty under the Biden administration, and maybe if I come there’s surely going to be a third amnesty. So it’s a big long-term magnet for illegal immigration, in addition to what was described with asylum, which is a short-term magnet for a huge surge as soon as Biden’s elected because people will know that he’s going to be changing the rules. So there’s short of a short-term surge and a long-term surge that happens under Biden. One interesting thing I thought about Biden was he was very – he’s very defensive in his platform about the effect on wages. He has all sorts of provisions saying – this is a quote from his platform: “The U.S. immigration system must guard against economywide wage cuts due to exploitation of foreign workers by unscrupulous employers who undercut the system by hiring immigrant workers below the market rate.” Now, how is he going to handle this threat of undercutting wages? Well, he’s going to work with Congress to ensure that employers are not taking advantage of immigrant workers. Well, I tend to think that no rule he could come up with is going to counter the general market forces of if there’s a greater supply the wages are going to go down, but he is – he does bring it up. And the other interesting thing, I thought, in his platform was the unity platform. There’s the Biden official platform and then there’s the unity platform that he negotiated with Bernie Sanders. The unity platform is a little less left even than the Biden platform. It talks about detention as a last resort, but it does at least mention detention. It’s less enthusiastic about adding new legal immigration. It mentions it, but it doesn’t effuse about it the way the Biden platform does. And it’s also slightly less optimistic about changing the root causes of immigration by somehow changing the economies of Central American and other poor nations that send us a lot of migrants. It say that’ll help, and you know, the Biden platform makes it sound like that that’s a panacea. And they all totally hide the ball of the possibility, Mark, that you’ve talked about of an administrative amnesty if Biden can’t get it through Congress, of doing something called parole in place where he effectively gives an amnesty just by executive order. They completely don’t mention that. So the – MR. KRIKORIAN: Which was – which was – not to interrupt – which was in Kamala Harris’ immigration plan when she was still running for president separately in the primaries. MR. KAUS: Interesting. So they somehow don’t want people talking about that. But they don’t want people talking about the whole topic, and that should – that should be a sign that the public demand for this kind of immigration reform just isn’t there. MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. I had kind of a question, and I’d be happy to hear thoughts from either one of you. But – and this was a question from a listener that kinds of fits into a broader context. One of the listeners asked: If Biden wins, what is he likely to do with these challenges in court? In other words, is he likely to basically just stop defending various cases like the remain in Mexico or the – what was the other one – the sanctuary city litigation? It reminded me of what Gray Davis did when Prop 187 – Proposition 187 passed in California. When he came in, he basically just stopped – you know, he gave up in court, and so the proposition which was passed by the voters turned into a pumpkin because the new governor – in this case, in California – wouldn’t defend it. And specifically what I – what I wanted to ask is the ACLU is among the people suing to stop the wall construction, and the ACLU has said they are going to push not only for stopping the wall construction but actually demolishing the wall, actually physically taking it down. And so the question is, first of all, what do either one of you think about whether – you know, what would happen there? But is there a tension, obviously, within a hypothetical Biden administration between giving in to the hard left – which kind of sees itself as winning and actually taking down sections of completed wall – on the one hand, and then on the other hand some people in the Biden – the supposed Biden administration who realize what political dynamite that would be and maybe don’t want to be wiped out in the midterms? I mean, this, obviously, all assumes that they win this time. So, I mean, any thoughts on how – on what kind of tension there would be or what kind of restraint there would be on what a Biden administration would want to do? Specifically – I think this is the most kind of marquee example – would be actually physically demolishing the wall, if only because Trump wanted it. They want to not just stop it, but take it – take it down. Have you given any thought to that, Mickey? MR. KAUS: Well, I thought something that – the one thing that might change this dynamic is something that Andrew talked about, which is – in his papers, which is there’s going to be an immediate surge of asylum applicants. And yes, Biden will be tempted to drop all the cases. You’re going to, you know, drop the Flores litigation. He’s going to drop the attempt by Jeff Sessions to change the – what the standard for, you know, can you claim asylum just because of domestic violence. He tried to tighten that up. But what is the public going to think when hundreds of thousands of people are lined up at the border, and they’re getting it, and they’re overwhelming the court system? And I think it’s – that’s going to – it’s going to be a little like a pandemic. It’s going to change the political atmosphere in a way that’s going to make it a little hard for Biden to back off on all these things because that, of course, would just attract a bigger influx. MR. ARTHUR: Yeah, and it’s actually very easy to see, if the past is prologue, you know, that’s exactly what would happen. You know, there were images in the middle of 2019 of immigrant detention and overcrowded processing centers along the southwest border. A couple things important to keep in mind. One, the administration had actually asked for additional money to help get the unaccompanied alien children out of Border Patrol custody. HHS, who’s responsible for processing those children, ran out of money, and then Congress sat on its hands for about seven weeks before it provided the money. But during that time it demagogued the issue of what a horrible job the Trump administration did. I mean, it was – respectfully, it was almost unconscionable. And I wrote, I think, five different pieces begging for that money to be given because these horrible conditions that existed were conditions that were caused by Congress in not providing the funding, and that’s both parties. You know, the House and the Senate were slow out of the blocks on that, but of course all funding bills have to arise in the House, which was controlled by Democrats who just didn’t want to give any more money for detention. And this was necessarily detention. But if you go back to 2014 and 2015, a lot of these detention facilities that were set up, a lot of these – the way that Border Patrol processing centers, which were built in the ’80s and ’90s to handle single adult males primarily from Mexico, were reconfigured in order to accommodate families, that actually began under the Obama administration, under the Obama-Biden administration. Jeh Johnson has admitted as much publicly on a number of occasions. So I think that when you see a huge surge of individuals over the southwest border – which, again, if Joe Biden is elected president I have no doubt is going to occur; I think that we’re going to see 2019 levels plus, we could go back to the 1.5 million people we saw in 2000 entering illegally – that the administration is going to have to respond because there will be a humanitarian disaster at the border. And it’s going to be interesting to see how they do respond to that. Right now, you know, everything that they’re talking about is purely abstract. We know how the Obama-Biden administration responded to that. We don’t know how the Biden-Harris administration’s going to respond to it. One way that they could do it is simply release every family unit, every adult traveling with a child, into the United States without any screening whatsoever. We know that that leads to the smuggling of children, the selling of children so that people can get into this country, and that itself will create a humanitarian disaster. Or, alternatively, they could go to Congress, you know, assuming that Democrats take control of the Senate, and ask for additional funding. So they might actually have to back up on some of these issues. But they will be faced with a huge number of – a huge population of individuals seeking to get into the United States. We’re going to see the same pictures that we saw with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you know, standing in front of facilities, you know, that are overcrowded. We’re going to see that plus. And again, I can’t tell you what that plus is going to be, but we saw 900-plus-thousand people in ’19. If we see 1.5 million, and most of those are children and families, it truly will be a Dickensian disaster. It’ll be like the last scene from “Lawrence of Arabia” where the city is falling apart. So you know, it – I think Mickey brings up a very important point. With respect to the litigation that’s ongoing, we already know that the Biden administration, in both its website and especially in the Biden-Sanders unity document, has vowed to undo the public-charge rule. That’s important to understand. That public-charge rule actually simply enforces the law that Congress passed back in 1996. The Clinton administration had issued some guidelines in which they left out non-cash benefits, and the Trump administration wanted to be true to the ’96 law, and so they changed the law. And that’s really been what courts have, you know, leaned on in finding that the public-charge rule is legal and effective. But I anticipate that the Biden administration will simply, you know, pull out its forces, pull its lawyers out of court on those things, say that they no longer contest those cases. As it relates to the wall, I think that the important point there is you’ll see a lot of environmental groups who will come forward and say that, you know, it causes this environmental impact and that environmental impact. If the Biden administration doesn’t actually challenge those things – and quite frankly, it’s consistent with every statement that the vice president has made on it – yeah, I think that you’re going to end up seeing walls torn down. And what that will do is create a route for individuals to enter the United States illegally, overwhelming our Border Patrol agents even more. MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. One point before I go to you, Mickey, is that Art said we’ll see the same pictures as we saw before. Well, that actually requires a news media interested in showing those pictures. And we’ve, frankly, seen that that’s not necessarily the case. The other thing is – and I wanted your thoughts on this, Mickey – is, you know, what are we talking about here? If they have the, you know, huge numbers of people or wall being torn down or what have you, what’s the issue? Obviously, presumably, it’s going to have a political consequence in 2022, I guess, is what we’re – yeah – assuming all of – assuming Biden wins. But if Trump loses, he’s not going away. And it seems to me that he may not be talking about immigration now, but if he does end up losing, after, you know, a few weeks of vacation I would expect him to start holding rallies every week and immigration then becomes – especially if it spins out of control, as it seems inevitably it has to if Biden follows through on this, Trump is going to just have a weekly show with mass rallies, you know, just vilifying the administration on things that really are going to seem pretty appalling, I think, to a lot of voters. Any thoughts on that, Mickey? MR. KAUS: Why take a vacation? MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. (Laughs.) MR. KAUS: I think – I think it happens almost immediately. I think the wall is too – a – (inaudible) – to rip down. I mean, it would enrage Trump’s base and it would be – even if Trump retires from public life it will enrage Trump’s base to see the wall being ripped down. Even at his recent rallies, where he’s not mentioning immigration that much though he does some, the wall is one of the top two applause lines. And so I tend to think that Biden will cater to the left, but maybe not on the wall because that’s just an emotional flashpoint. The reasons I think he’ll cater to the left are a couple of reasons. One, it’s one thing the Democrats all agree on. There are other issues like health care, you know, taxes, where there will be deep internal splits. There’s not a deep internal split on immigration anymore. And if Biden runs into trouble on those other issues – like gun control is another example – immigration is an issue he can throw to the left – a bone he can throw to the left pretty easily within his own coalition. I also don’t think it’s an issue he cares about particularly. So it’s – you know, he hasn’t made it an issue of his in the past, although he did vote for that fence bill. So I just think it’s an obvious one where if he – unless there is a huge outrage on the right, he will tend to give the left what it wants. And you know, these are some of the most powerful interest groups in the party – the asylum-rights community, the immigrant-rights community, the ACLU, the immigration bar – and they know what they want, and they’re very likely to get it. MR. KRIKORIAN: We had another question about health care, government-funded health care for illegal immigrants. Remember, there was that primary debate where they were asked about this and all of them raised their hands in support of taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants. I think Biden afterwards – I’m not sure he knew what was even going on, and the campaign kind of hemmed and hawed a little bit afterwards. But what do you think, Mickey, about how high a priority that will be for them when the – if and when the Democrats undertake a kind of broader health-care-related legislation? Is that – in other words, is that something they kind of can’t back out on, or is that – do they – do you think they have political wiggle room even on their own side to be able to not include health care – taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants? MR. KAUS: I think it’s very hard for them to back out of. They will put it in the context of the pandemic. They will say, well, it’s especially important that we allow undocumented immigrants to be able to go to emergency rooms and hospitals because they might infect the rest of us. And so – and there’s a logic to that. So I think they have – they feel they have a more powerful argument than they did before the pandemic. But the problem is it tests very badly. There’s a – there must – there’s a reason why Trump never says, you know, we don’t want amnesty for undocumented immigrants because it will lower wages. He always says we don’t want amnesty for undocumented immigrants because it will overburden Social Security and Medicare. In part that’s because he’s a businessman and he shies away from the wage argument, but in part because they have polls that show voters respond to that. So it’s very treacherous for the Democrats, but I think they’re pretty much committed to doing it. And there are states like California where it will have been done by then and they can say, well, California hasn’t fallen apart yet. MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, maybe. By then it might have, actually, but we’ll see. (Laughter.) Art, you have any thoughts on that? MR. ARTHUR: Well, you know, Mickey brings up a very interesting point with respect to COVID and the effect that that would have on health care because right now the whole point of the efforts that we’ve taken, basically tanking the economy and keeping children out of schools and, you know, isolating the elderly, has been to flatten the curve, to make sure that we don’t have an overburdened health-care system. So we’ve all come to accept the fact that, you know, there are limits to our health-care system, even though, respectfully, we have the best health-care system in the world. If you have a huge increase in funding for unauthorized aliens to have access to health care, all of a sudden you’re going to see a huge drawdown on those very limited resources at a period in time when the American people are laser-focused on, you know, things like PPE and ventilators. And you know, we know already – we know from experience that a lot of those individuals who are unauthorized get their health care from emergency rooms because emergency rooms can’t turn people away. If all of a sudden that becomes funded, that will encourage more people to show up at the emergency room for, you know, every cough and fever, and that will overwhelm the emergency rooms. It’s, you know, important to note one of the reasons that the late Senator Robert Byrd, who was a senator from West Virginia and a staunch liberal, was a hawk as it related to immigration was the fact that he had to take his wife to the hospital for various ailments that she had and he saw the effect that it had on the health-care system in West Virginia. I think the American people writ large will actually see the effect that that’ll have, and I think that that’s going to become a huge issue post-election. And remember, you know, we’re in a constant election cycle at this point in our history. The 2022 midterms will start on January the 21st, 2020. And you know, I think that, you know, you will see not just Donald Trump, but you’ll see a lot of leading Senate Republicans – Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley come to mind, Ted Cruz certainly, and Marco Rubio – who will be talking about the effect that this is having, you know, because again, you know, they come from states that, you know, have an elderly population. Those people need to go to the emergency room, and if those emergency rooms are overwhelmed you’re not going to be able to have social distancing and you’re going to have a drawdown on that – on the resources that are available. MR. KRIKORIAN: I had another political question, and this relates to refugees, and it’s a little different from some of the discussion on refugees. It’s long been a theory of mine or a hypothesis of mine – I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but – that one of the things that actually activates – politically activates people who otherwise weren’t really all that concerned about immigration is refugee resettlement, precisely because refugees go to places very often where there aren’t a lot of immigrants already. In other words, it creates political momentum to push back against immigration in places where, whatever people thought or responded to pollsters, it just wasn’t very salient to them until large numbers of refugees started showing up. And so it’s sort of a twofold question. First of all, might part of the reason immigration is less salient politically for some voters is that there aren’t – there hasn’t been, actually, a significant flow of people into smaller towns and smaller cities around the country that don’t otherwise have immigrants but get resettled refugees? And the flipside is, if a President Biden follows through and dramatically increases – six- or seven- or eightfold increase – in the number of refugees that are admitted for resettlement, those people all go – not all, but disproportionately go to smaller communities because the rent is cheaper. That’s kind of one of the things that really drives where these government contractors, paid for by the State Department – ostensibly religious organizations that are arms of the State Department – resettling people, they look for low – for cheap rent, and so they go to small communities. And it seems to me that could be one of the other things – like, for instance, trying to tear down wall or something else – that really generates – regenerates political energy on the immigration issue in a way that I think some of the people in the Biden campaign and some of their supporters don’t really appreciate the degree to which that could create pushback. Any thoughts from either one of you on that? Mickey? MR. KAUS: Well, the number – the difference in the numbers is large. I mean, Biden has pledged to increase the limit to I think it’s 115(,000) or 125,000. Right now it’s down to close to 15,000. Trump is sort of being punished, as you say, by his success, also with turning back the asylum surge. MR. KRIKORIAN: Right, right. MR. KAUS: It’s no longer a big issue because he’s lowered the numbers so dramatically. But I tend to – I always have – I have assumed, Mark – and you can tell me that I’m wrong – that the numbers from asylum and certainly the numbers from amnesty, 11.5 million and whoever new they attract, overwhelm the numbers of refugees. I mean – MR. KRIKORIAN: No, sure, sure. But you have to have an amnesty for 11.5 million to do something, whereas 150,000 refugees are – every year are actually already there. You see what I mean? And the thing is, asylum is a little different because even though it’s the same standard – people supposedly who have been persecuted – asylum-seekers generally really are just using asylum claims as a way of getting into the United States, and so they go to where their relatives already are. They all have relatives, practically. So that they’re not – my point is they’re not going to new places. Refugee resettlement creates new immigrant communities in places that never had them. Minneapolis would not have had a Somali immigrant community if Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services and Catholic Charities hadn’t directed people there, and there’s examples of that all over the country. That’s my point, is that it sort of creates new immigration concern on the part of voters who otherwise, even if they were skeptical of it and, you know, were kind of Trumpish as it were on the issue, didn’t really care all that much about it because it wasn’t in their backyard. That was my only point about that. MR. KAUS: Right. No, I think that that’s clearly true. The question is, are the Biden people hip enough to realize that that’s a political threat? MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. MR. KAUS: And I don’t think so. I think the momentum behind it from those groups you mentioned – from the charities that have been starved of money and are desperate now to get back on the gravy train – that momentum is too strong. It will have to be proven to them that it was a political liability. MR. KRIKORIAN: Any thoughts on that, Art? MR. ARTHUR: Yeah, and Mickey actually stepped on my line. He didn’t know that I was going to deliver it. But you know, I think that part of the reason why immigration isn’t a big issue right now is that Trump has been a victim of his own success. I think he’s been a victim of his own rhetoric with respect to immigration and a victim of his own success. You know, both parties, you know, always at least paid lip service to immigration enforcement even when they weren’t doing it. But you know, the – Donald Trump has actually put the Democrats into a position where they say we don’t want immigration enforcement. I mean, again, you know, it’s an astounding statement for the former vice president to make that he’s only going to deport people who have been convicted of felonies in the United – committed in the United States. That means that if you are a child molester or a murderer who committed your crime in Guatemala and you come to this country, you’re not going to get removed. If you’re a drug cartel member in Sinaloa but you’ve never done anything wrong in this country, if the vice president is true to his word – and I have a feeling he’s going to be held to it – we’re not going to be removing those individuals either. So again, you know, I think that we see a response to the rhetoric. Again, with respect to the victim of his own success, as Mickey said, people don’t see the illegal immigration that’s not happening. And so for that reason, you know, they’re not affected by that. I think that the same is going to be true as it relates to refugees. And Mickey’s right, it’s 125,000 in the two Biden documents that he’s referenced earlier, both the website and the Biden-Sanders unity document. And again, that’s going to have effects on smaller communities, particularly during the age of COVID. You’re going to be bringing in people from abroad into this country, and again, you know, putatively they’d be screened for the illness, possibly not. But they’d be going to smaller areas where, again, health-care resources are much more limited. And if there is, you know – and there will be several waves of COVID before eventually there is a cure or a vaccine for it. You know, this is going to be a salient issue for a period of time to come. And you now, I have no doubt that the vice president is going to set a 125,000 limit and they’re going to get to 125,000 or close to it by the end of the year – by the end of 2021. So you know, I anticipate that that actually will be a factor. This is also going to be a factor on those border communities. We see, you know, Martha McSally running behind in Arizona and, you know, California of course is a, you know, solidly blue state. But those border communities have very limited health-care systems. If we see, you know, hundreds of thousands of people a month show up at the border and they’re sick, they’re going to be sent to the local hospital. We saw this happen in Yuma, where the mayor had to declare an emergency because they were overwhelmed during the summer of 2019. We’re going to see that again and again and again. Mark makes a very good point that the media’s going to try and, you know, elide or hide, you know, these – you know, these waves that come, but it becomes very difficult when you have a health-care system that gets overwhelmed, particularly when Arizona becomes a COVID hotspot, when Southern California becomes a COVID hotspot, and when Texas, you know, becomes a COVID hotspot as individuals enter this country illegally. Remember, one of the things that the immigration laws as exist now does is to screen people for communicable diseases. If you simply allow everyone in, that screening never occurs. And therefore, you know, again, health care is limited. I’m not saying, you know – I’m not making any moral judgment, but I am saying that because health care is limited and because we’re all focused on the limitations on health care, that actually will become a bread-and-butter issue not just for people at the border, but for people across the United States. MR. KRIKORIAN: I had a – we got a question here about amnesty and I sort of want to add my own little spin to it: The connection between an amnesty push and getting rid of the filibuster. And so presumably if the Democrats take a majority in the Senate – and they’re going to need more than just 51 seats or 50 seats with the vice president as a tiebreaker to likely get rid of the filibuster rule – but I mean, I’m assuming that they wouldn’t just do it on the first day when they convene, on January 3rd. They would wait for some important piece of legislation, try to get it passed. There would be enough Republican votes to stop it, and then, you know, the theater would be, well, more in sorrow than in anger, you know, we’re – we have no choice for the good of the country but to get rid of the filibuster. This is a question really for both. I mean, Mickey, you’re a political observer, and Art here is a longtime – was a longtime Hill staffer. Do you think a Gang of Eight-style bill would be the bill where they would do something like that? In other words, would that be the pretext or the opportunity where they would get rid of the filibuster? And if that were the case, would it be harder for them to get enough of the votes? Because, you know, in a sense if it’s easier for some Democratic senators to vote for, say, Gang of Eight if they were confident that it was going to be stopped in the House, or in this case confident that it would be filibustered, would it become harder for them – would Democratic senators become less eager to get rid of the filibuster if that’s the only way a Gang of Eight-style bill would be passed? Would they be able to peel off several Democrats? Would the Republicans be able to peel off several Democrats who might not vote for getting rid of the filibuster if that vote would essentially be the way a big amnesty would get passed? Any thoughts on that, Mickey? MR. KAUS: I think they would not frame it as let’s get rid of the filibuster so we can pass an amnesty. That’ll be their – one of their big motives, but the talk is that they will frame it as on the voting rights bill. They will try to do something that sounds neutral and good and good government, and when that fails they’ll get rid of the filibuster for that. And then, of course, that will also apply to all these other issues, including health care and immigration amnesty. So I tend to think you’re right that the politics of making it all about amnesty makes it harder for them to get rid of the filibuster, but they – I think they will get rid of the filibuster if necessary. And they really want to pass an amnesty, so I think, you know, if necessary they’ll try for that, but they’ll be able to get rid of the filibuster for other issues first. But before you get to the filibuster there’s the possibility of a reconciliation bill, which doesn’t – you know which can pass with a simple majority. They can do one a year, and the rule is normally that it has to – has to do with the budget, so an immigration amnesty couldn’t be crammed into a reconciliation bill that would avoid the need to get rid of the filibuster. But I remember the welfare-reform debate in ’86 when the suddenly passed most of welfare reform through reconciliation, not necessarily a big budget issue you would think, a lot of social policy in there. But yet, it got through under reconciliation. And I was reading the reconciliation rules last night and it seems to me there are two loopholes they could use. One is it’s – you can put it in a resolution if – in reconciliation if the provision would result in a substantial reduction in outlays or increase in revenues after the fiscal years covered by the bill. So the bill usually covers 10 years. So they could say, well, if it helps the budget years 11 through 20, we can pass it in reconciliation. And of course, that’s what the CBO scoring said the Gang of Eight bill did. It eventually costs the money huge – costs the government huge sums of money when all of the new immigrants qualify for Social Security and Medicare, but in the short run they can argue it helps the budget, and they will. So they might be able – and there’s another loophole that also seems to apply. But it seems possible to me that they could use reconciliation. MR. KRIKORIAN: And they could – I mean, if those are rules they could always just vote to change the rules. I mean, the filibuster itself is a rule. If they have a majority, right, I mean, why not? MR. KAUS: And it’s easier to change the reconciliation rule, I assume, than to change the filibuster. MR. KRIKORIAN: Any thoughts on that, Art, from your long time on the House side? MR. ARTHUR: Well, you know, I’m going to be honest with you: I wasn’t sitting up last night reading the reconciliation rules. (Laughter.) And I’m a House guy. You know, we have, you know, sensible rules. But the rules in the Senate definitely protect the rights of the smaller states and the individuals. So I think that Mickey’s probably right. I don’t think that amnesty’s going to be the hill that Senate Democrats want to die on with respect to the filibuster, but I expect that what would happen is they would try sending up a piece of amnesty legislation. And keep in mind, some of the legislation that’s been proposed in the recent Congress with respect to amnesty has been truly eye-opening. I mean, one of them that actually garnered a lot of support would have required the United States government to fly deported criminals back to this country when they had their cases reopened. But you know, nobody’s really going to get into the finer details on that. So I anticipate that what Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would do is, you know, he would send up a couple of these bills and they would fail on the filibuster. We know that the filibuster defeated the DREAM Act. We know the filibuster defeated the Gang of Eight bill. So he’ll anticipate that there will be losses and then he’ll say, look, you know, I don’t want this to be a do-nothing Congress so we’re going to have to get – you know, do away with the filibuster. I think that Mickey’s probably right. You know, voting rights is one of those things that people don’t really understand very well but have very, you know, strong emotional feeling toward. I mean, you know, people have fought and died for the franchise. So you know, I think that, you know, that will be the bill, but once the floodgate is open we’re going to see probably some pretty significant legislation open up. Now, the number of seats that the Democrats are able to capture in the Senate I think is going to be important because I think that, you know, a Democrat like Joe Manchin in West Virginia is going to be hard pressed to vote for a bill that flies criminals back to the United States. So you know, if they manage to pick up, you know, five seats or they have 55 to 45 with, you know, two “independents” – in air quotes – Angus King and Bernie Sanders, I think that, you know, they would be a lot more likely to do it. And they’d say, you know, Joe Manchin, you can take a walk on this one. But you know, I have no doubt that Mickey’s correct – because he cited me – that we’re going to see probably a massive parole in place, a massive administrative amnesty, because quite frankly Joe Biden’s promised to only deport people who have committed felonies in the United States. Doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense unless you give those people employment authorization. Parole in place would allow them to do that administratively. And by the way, I’m going to note that that was – that was something that got blown past Republicans in the Senate in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, I think it was, that, you know, actually allows that to be the law, that’s going to stop Texas and other states from opposing legislation to have this massive executive amnesty. But first you’re going to see the executive amnesty. Then you’re going to, you know, end up having the status quo, and then the same support that you have for DACA, you know, now that DACA is going on its sixth year. You know, the Biden-Harris administration will say, look, you know, these people are here already, they’re not going anywhere; just grant them amnesty. And it’ll be a fait accompli. MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. Eighth year for DACA, not the sixth year. Remember, it was 2012. Yeah? Yes, Mickey. MR. KAUS: You know, it’s possible that Trump will win. MR. KRIKORIAN: Sure, sure. MR. KAUS: We’re assuming that sort of Biden will win, and that’s certainly the likeliest possibility. If Trump wins, there’s a – he’s freed from the need for reelection, so he’s much more likely to be accommodating to an amnesty which may satisfy some of the instincts than if he had to answer to the base. But the Republican Senate, it seems to be – and Art, you can correct me if I’m wrong – seems to be much more anti-amnesty/restrictionist than it was before. That’s one lasting effect that Trump has had, which is the Jeb Bushes and the Chamber of Commerce people have a much smaller hold on the Republican Party. The populists have basically taken over the party in that they challenge sitting incumbents in the primaries and beat a lot of them if they stray too far on immigration. So the incumbents are on a – on a tight leash not to sell out in the view of the base on immigration, and that seems to be a change in the anti-amnesty direction. MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, the Gang of Eight bill, even though it passed the Senate, the majority of Republicans voted against it, which was definitely a change, because back in 2005 a Republican Senate passed the amnesty that George Bush was trying to push. It didn’t go anywhere in the House. So yeah, I mean, clearly, the Republican Party has moved very much in the other direction. MR. ARTHUR: Yeah, that’s an excellent point that Mickey made. And you know, we even see Marco Rubio, who was one of the eight, you know, come out in favor of many of the president’s statements with respect to that, and I think that that reflects the fact that the Republican Party has very much become the working-class party. And I go back to what Barbara Jordan said, you know, back in 1994 when she was the chairman of President Clinton’s Commission on Immigration Reform, and that is that we need to make sure that immigration protects the most disadvantaged members of our society – inner-city youth, members of minority groups, and immigrants who haven’t adjusted to life in the United States already. So you know, as the Republican Party pushes more – and I think that that’s a winning strategy for the Republican Party – to be the party of the working class, I think that that would actually make them, you know, more strident against an amnesty because it would swamp the country. Most of the people that would receive amnesty would have lower levels of education, lower levels of – lower job skills, fewer job skills, and you know, it would truly adversely affect those people. And I think that those workers will find their voice in the midterm election, and a lot of those Republicans who are up for reelection, they don’t want to – they don’t want to, you know, get voted out of office because they took a vote on amnesty and voted the wrong way. MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Art. It’s 2:00. We’ve hit an hour, so I want to respect people’s time. Mickey, could you tell people where to find you? Because I don’t remember if still works or not, but go ahead and make – give yourself a little ad. MR. KAUS: OK. You can find me on Substack. I have a newsletter. I think it’s Substack Kaus or – I can give you my Twitter – MR. KRIKORIAN: I think it’s Kaus.Substack I think is what it is. MR. KAUS: Kaus.Subtack, OK. And if you – if you Google it, that pops up. If you go to my Twitter page, that pops up. My one main point is we talk about the midterms. If they quickly get rid of the filibuster and pass an amnesty, which a lot of them want to do – and if the Democrats get a big enough majority, they will do that – the midterms are too late. It’s done. MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. MR. KAUS: The country has been transformed in whatever ways the amnesty transforms it. So that is – that is a distinct possibility. MR. KRIKORIAN: I’d have to say I’m not even sure a legislative amnesty is necessary because if they do this parole in place gimmick, the illegal immigrants will all have work permits, Social Security numbers, and driver’s licenses. At that point, that is the amnesty. It’s all over. Everything else is just changing from amnesty light to amnesty premium. It’s not really a – I mean, so in a sense much of the discussion of what’s going on in Congress is important with regard to amnesty, but if they do parole in place it will all be, you know, kind of, you know, gilding the lily as it were. It’s not – the issue will be – the amnesty will have been over. MR. ARTHUR: But just to put a gloss on that, Mark, very briefly, if President Biden – if a President Biden were to actually, you know, say I’m not going to deport anybody who hasn’t committed a felony in the United States, I’m not going to engage in worksite enforcement so that we can boost the wages of illegal workers in the United States – which is actually part of the Biden-Sanders unity document – you know, again, you won’t even need that parole in place because there won’t be any effective immigration enforcement. So people will just, you know, bypass the employment laws, will bypass, you know, everything else, and in essence you’ll just have a large community of individuals. Nobody will have to take a vote at all. MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. Good point. Thank you to all of you who are listening. Mickey is on Twitter at @KausMickey – @KausMickey. I’m on Twitter at @MarkSKrikorian if you have a taste for snark and sarcasm. The Center’s website, which includes Art’s postings contrasting the Biden and Trump approach to immigration and everything else of our work, is Thank you, Mickey. Thank you, Art. And thanks, all of you, for listening, and we hope to see you at our next event. (END)

Topics: Politics