Breaking Trump’s Monopoly On Immigration Policy
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There is a reason that Donald Trump is our president: the abject failure of the Democratic party to truly embrace the significance of immigration policy as a campaign issue. Immigration is one of the three most important issues to Americans according to a Gallup poll, along with healthcare and the economy. Hillary Clinton let Donald Trump consolidate a monopoly over immigration’s media presence and reporting in 2016; her campaign essentially let Trump dictate the path that the issue took in the minds of the American people and failed to establish an original platform on immigration other than “the opposite of what Trump wants.” It was a failure of communication, responsibility, and plain old politics, and it ultimately led to Clinton’s loss in the general election.
But it seems that the Democratic candidates of the 2020 election will make the same mistake again. They have hardly mentioned the subject in the debates; instead, they have criticized Trump’s policies as racist and promised healthcare to undocumented immigrants (a position already being used in attack ads across national programming). Republicans constantly and falsely accuse Democrats of supporting an open border in the Southern states, and yet the many “progressive” candidates have done next to nothing to dispel this accusation. If Democrats can’t address the question of immigration, President Trump will, without a doubt, win a second presidential term.
To begin with, Democrats should heavily emphasize the countless benefits that immigration provides for the United States. Immigrants can do the jobs that many Americans don’t want to do—like picking fruits and working in slaughterhouses—forming the bedrock of the nation’s economy. They boost population growth in a country with a stagnating birth rate (a phenomenon shared by many Western or Westernized countries) and add their unique and diverse cultures to the famed American melting pot. It’s clear that America relies on immigrants, but an equally important point is that immigrants rely on America. This country’s infrastructure, technology, and overall quality of life are a tremendous improvement for the millions of migrants from Central and South America who flee instability, gang violence, and a never-ending cycle of poverty.
Though the two-way benefits of immigration are obvious, 80 percent of Americans believe we should be able to vet those who wish to enter our country and want secure borders. The Democratic candidates haven’t gotten the memo. Over half the candidates currently running have said they would eliminate penalties for border crossings. In addition, all of them promised amnesty to immigrants who weren’t criminals. This is hugely unpopular with Americans: 77 percent think illegal immigration is a critical problem, and 83 percent believe America should tighten its border security. These developments all point to a popular perception that Democrats would rather pander to a relative minority of radical progressives than their more moderate base, which numbers in the tens of millions across the country.
The party can end that impression with just a few simple steps. They must recognize that a nation has the right to control its borders to a certain extent. They must recognize that illegal immigration isn’t a rising tide which lifts all boats and that it has the real ability to suppress wages among the very constituents who are struggling most in the economy. Democrats must show a certain level of commitment to back up those statements. They should actively seek to talk about the problem. If Democrats could do that, they will break Trump’s monopoly on his winning issue.