Home / General / Shorter Liberals: Militarizing the Border is Bad When Trump Does It and Good When Biden Does It

Shorter Liberals: Militarizing the Border is Bad When Trump Does It and Good When Biden Does It


I hate hacks. I hate them with the heat of a 1,000 suns. Unfortunately, as the comment thread on immigration demonstrated the other day, there are a lot of people who comment here who are fine with anything so long as Joe Biden does it, even if they criticized the very same thing when Donald Trump does it.

Well, Nic Kristof is nothing if not a hack and his defense of Biden’s actions is pure, 100% hackwork.

Many of us liberals now find ourselves in an awkward spot on immigration.

For years we have denounced draconian steps by Republicans to bar desperate migrants. But President Biden has now introduced his own tough steps to reduce asylum seekers, not so different from President Donald Trump’s approach.

The new measures may be overturned by the courts, but in the meantime many on the left are whacking Biden. Senator Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, twisted the knife by suggesting that Biden was borrowing from Trump’s playbook: “By reviving Trump’s asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values.”

I don’t find myself in an awkward spot at all. Biden is engaging in evil. Just because his evil might be slightly less evil than that of Trump does not make it not evil. If we can’t say that, it means we don’t have principles at all. Well, other than allowing himself to be scammed by Cambodian women who know a good mark when they see one and then never even apologize for it, Kristof has no principles. And so he talks himself into how Biden’s actions are a good thing.

I exist only because an Oregon family in 1952 sponsored my dad as a refugee from Eastern Europe. But I’ve reluctantly come to the view that Biden is doing the right thing with his clampdown. Let me explain.

Oh, OK.

Then it’s time for more of Kristof’s Cosplaying as Oregon Working Class Guy, even though his parents were professors in Portland who raised their kids on a boutique farm in Yamhill County.

I think of a neighbor of mine, a surly seventh-grade dropout who in the 1970s was earning more than $20 an hour (around $150 an hour today). That job disappeared, and he later ended up in part-time and minimum wage positions and lost his home. He was hurt by many factors — the decline of unions, globalization and the impact of technology — but he was also outcompeted by immigrants with a well-earned reputation for hard work.

It’s often said that native-born Americans aren’t interested in the jobs that immigrants take, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Many native-born Americans may not be willing to toil in the fields or on a construction site for $12 an hour, but perhaps would be for $25 an hour.

At a time when so many working-class Americans are already falling behind, and then self-medicating and dying from drugs, alcohol and suicide, shouldn’t we be careful about inflicting even more pain on them through immigration policy?

What the fuck does this even mean? I know what Oregon was like in those very years when immigrants came. One example of hard, brutal work that most whites did not want to do was tree planting. That work sucks. The people with no other options did that, no matter the pay. And who were they? Mostly immigrants from Mexico. Otherwise, they were mostly homeless guys looking for a few bucks, a few college students, a few hippies wanting to work outside the man.

Then there is just breezing through the fetishization of white working class “pain,” which evidently is the only pain worth discussing in this nation. Sure, let’s not examine whether immigration does cause these people more pain. And if it does, shall we exam how much of that is economic or how much of that is not liking brown people speaking Spanish or Maya or Zapotec? And the “perhaps” on the wages is great, especially because the minimum wage in Oregon is not $12, but rather will be $13.70 in the rural counties and up to $15.95 in Portland starting on July 1. No, I guess that’s not $25 an hour but we know the unemployment rate. It’s not high!

There is not some massive class of whites just desperate to go pick in the fields. And as for construction, I can tell you right now that I have heard Building Trades leaders say their unions need to embrace immigration because their kids have no interest in working construction. Anti-immigrant people have pushed this line about whites (or any Americans with other choices) that would work these jobs if there wasn’t immigration and we know very well by this point that it is absolutely not true. We know this from farm towns in the South who had their immigrant community decimated by Trump’s deportations and lo and behold no one wanted those jobs.

Then there’s this:

I’ve also wondered about the incentives we inadvertently create. In Guatemalan villages, I’ve seen families prepared to send children on the perilous journey to the United States, and I fear that lax immigration policies encourage people to risk their lives and their children’s lives on the journey.

Wow, let’s not look at the why here. Nope. Let’s ignore the drug violence caused by Americans’ insatiable demand for drugs. Let’s not look at where the guns for the gangs come from, largely the U.S. thanks to its clownshow gun laws. Let’s not look at how economic policies from American free trade agreements has thrown people off their land by making it impossible for families to remain on the land and make even a marginal living. Let’s not look at how the U.S. destroyed Guatemala’s fragile young democracy in 1954 to protect United Fruit’s interests and then funded a thirty-year civil war to make sure that the only way anyone would think they could make change is through violence. Let’s not look at how climate change that Guatemalans very much did not cause is transforming Central America and its fragile microclimates to make coffee and other crops very unstable.

And then let’s not consider what it means to send your kids north. It means risking your kids very well might die. They could get captured by the cartels. They could die in the desert. They could be raped. They could be lost to you forever. What would you do this? You would do this because life is so terrible for your kids at home. You would do this because the cartels are going to force them to become gangsters or die. And that’s just Guatemala. If you are escaping Mauritania, a rapidly growing source of immigration, you are literally escaping slavery. If you are escaping Venezuela, you are escaping one of the greatest disasters of a nation in the 21st century. Etc.

Like, Kristof could easily explore this stuff. He just chooses not to so he can support Joe Biden’s actions.

Are we, the people of an immigrant nation, pulling up the ladder after we have boarded? Yes, to some degree. But the reality is that we can’t absorb everyone who wants in, and it’s better that the ladder be raised in an orderly way by reasonable people.

So, even as the son of a refugee, I think on balance that President Biden made the right call in curbing access to asylum.

Yes, obviously Trump is going to be even worse. But that’s no reason to apologize for or outright support Joe Biden’s immigration policy. It’s embarrassing and everyone who defended Biden’s policies in the comment threads the other day needs to think if they are going to be pointless hacks or if they have any principles at all.

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