Unless you’ve sequestered yourself in a sealed bunker for most of the primary season – and, if so, your wisdom and foresight is commendable – you’ve been privy to an increasingly maddened intramural debate on the right over immigration reform. The tone of this dispute is usually heated and hyperbolic. It’s no accident that the intensity of the conservative immigration-first voter is inversely proportional to the number of Republican voters who rate that as their most important issue. For months, public polling and exit polling have confirmed that the issue is, at best, niche. Still, when it comes to immigration reform, the right’s “most trusted voices” hurl about slurs at their more conservative brethren who are only slightly more noncommittal on the issue: “open-borders advocates,” “globalists,” “shamnesty-peddling spineless RINO weasels.” You get the drift.

Every one of these apoplectic conservative voters should be compelled by a sense of civic duty to watch last night’s Democratic presidential debate, in which both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were probed on the issue of immigration by the hosts and anchors of the Spanish-language channel Univision. The right’s most myopic anti-immigration voices have convinced themselves that their most powerful enemies are Sneetches with stars on their bellies. They have no idea who their opposition truly is, but they will soon learn.

For those Americans steeped in the overly dramatized internecine Republican feud over immigration reform, watching the CNN/Univision debate on Wednesday night was like peering through a window into a parallel universe. For both Clinton and Sanders, the theme was clear: Barack Obama has been far too conservative when it comes to enforcing American immigration law and, as president, both would strive to be more permissive.

Hillary Clinton declared that she would make “comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship”  “one of my priorities in my first 100 days as president.”

“We enhanced the border security. That part of the work is done,” Clinton declared. “Let’s move to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”

“We need to end private detention; we need to end family detention,” the former Secretary of State declared.

“The idea that a mother is living here, and her children are on the other side of the border is wrong and immoral,” Senator Sanders insisted when asked by a distraught Honduran immigrant how the candidates would reunite her family in America with her husband, who was deported back to Central America. “I will do everything that I can to unite your family.”

“I applaud President Obama for his efforts on DAPA and DACA. And I think we have got to expand those efforts,” Sanders added, noting that he go around Congress to the best of his ability in order to pursue comprehensive immigration reform with an eye toward citizenship.

This may sound like a radical departure from what Republicans are offering, but this great divide over immigration between the two parties is a construct of the campaign. The Senate’s Republicans and Democrats were able to cobble together compromise legislation in 2013. While that effort failed and has been thoroughly repudiated by Republican office seekers, the debate over immigration was largely muted in the earliest days of the presidential campaign.

Trump’s entry into the race filled a vacuum on the right. He not only struck the hawkish position on illegal immigration for which a subset of conservative voters hungered, but he embraced positions this wing of the GOP never even knew they wanted. The curtailment of legal immigration, the severe truncation of work visas for skilled overseas labor, and the “temporary” ban on all Muslim entry into the United States. Trump has thrust open the Overton Window on the issue of immigration for the right, but that has not translated to the rest of the nation who will vote in their millions in the autumn.

There might have been a compromise on immigration in 2013 that took that issue off the table, but conservative immigration activists wouldn’t have it. The Senate bill never got a vote in the House, because it would have failed. Conservatives wanted to put the issue to the American electorate in a presidential year, and that is precisely what they will get. Now, one or the other party will receive a mandate from millions of American voters to pursue their vision for immigration reform. America will decide whether they prefer either the party of citizenship, increased foreign labor, and no further border security provisions or the party of a fanciful border wall, a massive “deportation force,” and the closing of borders to foreign workers and tourists. There will be no compromise.

Another aspect of this Democratic debate should disabuse the right’s most fevered Trump supporters of the innumerate notion that the reality television star is a competitive general election candidate. Even if you discount the polls, which show Trump losing to Clinton comfortably and her margin growing by the day, the idea that Trump can win in November puts a great deal of faith in the notion that the press will cover the general election campaign as they have the GOP primary. That is, with a disproportional emphasis on largely neutral, saturation-level coverage of Trump. They won’t. To the extent they are willing to see it, conservatives got a glimpse of the campaign the left will wage against Trump when the Democratic candidates were asked last night by Univision moderators if they believe the celebrity candidate is “racist.”

“Others are also joining in making clear that his rhetoric, his demagoguery, his trafficking in prejudice and paranoia has no place in our political system,” Clinton said. “Especially from somebody running for president who couldn’t decide whether or not to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke.” If you’re delusional enough to believe that, after a four-month, $400 million, media-led referendum on racism that racism wins, you’re delusional enough to believe the immigration hawks will have their Muslim ban.

Conservative immigration activists wanted to put their vision for reform to the public for an up or down vote, and they will have it. Their recalcitrance and insularity somehow led them to believe that theirs was a majority point of view, but they are in for a rude awakening. They wanted all or nothing. If they would dare to open their eyes, they’d see that they are staring right down the barrel at nothing.

+ A A -
You may also like
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap