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Commentary: Stop using immigrant children as political pawns
The truth is Democrats are far more interested in using immigrant families, especially children, as political pawns than they are helping people or actually solving the country’s illegal immigration crisis. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Commentary: Stop using immigrant children as political pawns

According to the Department of Homeland Security, from mid-April through May, 1,995 children were separated from their parents after illegally attempting to enter the United States. Although many of these separations were very brief — something the left-wing press has no interest in highlighting — there have been instances in which detained parents and children have been kept apart for a prolonged period while the immigration system worked through the thousands of people entering the country illegally every month.

These cases are undeniably tragic, especially in those instances when law-abiding families are genuinely interested in coming to America to enjoy our liberties and numerous economic opportunities, a position President Donald Trump has repeatedly acknowledged — including on June 20, when he announced he plans to issue an executive order to end the controversial policy.

Although Democrats in Congress and liberal pundits might claim their devotion to human rights is what forced Trump to end this controversial policy, the truth is Democrats are far more interested in using immigrant families, especially children, as political pawns than they are helping people or actually solving the country’s illegal immigration crisis.

This is evident from the fact Democrats couldn’t manage to muster even a little outrage at the Obama administration when it was in power, despite the fact it also temporarily locked children away from their families.

If Democrats truly wanted to help these kids by changing the laws on the books, they easily could. Conservative Republicans have been clamoring for immigration reform for decades, and they would have no problem fixing this and a number of other important immigration problems (including a resolution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) in exchange for an agreement to build a border wall and to end the absurd practice of chain migration.

And yet, when Republicans announced they were crafting legislation to end the family separation policy (with no additional strings attached), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he and his comrades in the Senate had no interest in solving the problem through the legislative process. Instead of using their constitutional authority to change laws, Schumer and other congressional Democrats demanded the Trump administration ignore existing law and issue an executive order halting the policy.

Why? Because, according to Schumer, immigration legislation almost never gets approved in Congress.

“Let’s hope the president does the right thing and solves the problem, which he can do,” Schumer said. “That’s the simple, easiest and most likely way this will happen. How many times has immigration legislation passed in this Congress? How many times? Zero.”

Of course, what Schumer didn’t say is that the reason legislation almost never passes is because the Democrats refuse to approve any legislation that includes an extensive border wall, or anything else resembling real border security. This, and every other immigration debate, has nothing to do with helping children, fighting racism, or making America a more welcoming place for immigrants. It’s all about one thing and one thing only: votes.

Democrats believe that if they can keep the flow of illegal immigration steady over the next couple of decades, the children of those immigrants, many of whom will be born or become American citizens, will feel obligated to support the Democratic Party. Democrats also regularly use illegal immigration as a political weapon with which they can hurl accusations of racism against anyone, no matter how reasonable, who wants to control immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s former communications director, admitted the political importance of immigration for Democrats’ political future in a January memo for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, in which she said, “The fight to protect Dreamers is not only a moral imperative, it is also a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success.”

“If Democrats don’t try to do everything in their power to defend 'Dreamers,' that will jeopardize Democrats’ electoral chances in 2018 and beyond,” she added.

Democrats didn’t always feel this way about immigration. Not so long ago, many in the Democratic Party argued illegal immigration causes significant societal and economic problems, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In his 1995 State of the Union Address, Bill Clinton — who, by the current standards applied in the immigration debate, would be considered a horrific racist — said, “All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers.”

In 2004, Hillary Clinton told WABC-AM radio, “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants. Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we’re going to let people in for the work that otherwise would not be done, let’s have a system that keeps track of them.”

Even Chicago’s leftist mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is now fighting rigorously with the Trump administration to impede the enforcement of immigration laws, advised President Clinton in 1996 to be tougher on illegal immigration so he could “claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens.”

What explains Democrats’ dramatic change of heart about illegal immigration if it’s not about political gain?

However uncomfortable it may be to hear for the left, illegal immigration is unfair, inhumane, and creates numerous unnecessary ethical problems. Many illegal immigrants are abused and mistreated by employers, who know they are unlikely to report them to the authorities out of fear of being deported.

Illegal immigrants are commonly taken advantage of by con men who get paid thousands of dollars to herd families across the U.S. border, often in dangerous, and sometimes deadly, conditions. Many women and children are sexually abused while trying to make their way across the border, and some girls end up trapped in sex trafficking rings.

Even those immigrants who make it across the border and find jobs are, by the very nature of living in the modern United States, inclined to break other laws just to live their day-to-day lives. One in the country illegally can’t drive, work, or benefit from most social services without breaking some other U.S. law.

And this doesn’t include the many problems caused for American citizens by immigrants who come to the United States illegally and then commit violent crimes or engage in other dangerous activities. Even if this group is relatively small compared to the total number of immigrants entering America, no citizen should be put at risk by a dangerous criminal who shouldn’t have been able to come here in the first place.

All these problems, and many more, are completely avoidable. America needs a border wall and a well-funded border protection agency. We need humane laws that ensure immigrants who come here do so legally, pay taxes, and are held responsible if they break our laws. We need an immigration system that makes it possible for well-intentioned immigrant families who love freedom, pay taxes, and want to become American citizens to do so, but that also keeps out violent gangs, drugs, and other criminals who want to do us harm.

Only in a society in which immigrants are used as political tools rather than treated as people are these reforms considered radical.

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Justin Haskins

Justin Haskins

Justin Haskins is the director of the Socialism Research Center at the Heartland Institute and the co-author of the New York Times best-seller "Dark Future: Uncovering the Great Reset’s Terrifying Next Phase."
@JustinTHaskins →