May 1, 2019
Happy May Day
Since massive demonstrations in 2006, May 1st has become a day for demonstrations and mobilizations in defense of immigrant rights - in addition to traditional calls for worker rights. A few stories from around the country:
Seattle: "National dialogue on immigration and criticism over how the Trump administration has addressed the issue will propel Wednesday’s May Day events, an annual day of mostly peaceful protests and celebrations to recognize workers’ rights."
Philadelphia: "Immigration activists plan to march in Philadelphia on Wednesday against big tech companies whose products and services can help the government find and deport undocumented migrants. The targets include corporate giants such as Microsoft and Amazon, whose wealth and reach make them familiar presences in American homes. The protest comes as pressure from the public, and even from employees, is increasing on firms to act ethically, particularly in their dealings with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE."
Los Angeles: "Today is International Workers' Day, and per tradition, that'll bring thousands of people to the heart of Los Angeles for a collection of rallies and marches in support of worker and immigrant rights...Local labor unions, immigration advocacy groups, democratic socialists and more will converge on McArthur [sic] Park to rally before many join the march through downtown. Most of the action is slated to kick off at 3 p.m. and last until 6 or 7 p.m."
Long Beach: "Over a dozen of Long Beach’s community organizations say they will be highlighting local worker issues during this Wednesday’s May Day march and rally, which coincides with International Workers’ Day...Known as the May Day Long Beach coalition, groups include the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Filipino Migrant Center, Red Earth Defense, Housing Long Beach, Long Beach Forward and the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America."
List of marches in New York City.
The presidential election and immigration
What is a Democrat to do about immigration in the current politically charged and deeply polarized environment? Stand on principle? Cry out for respect for human rights? Nah. Just check the polls, of course. At least that seems to be an emerging consensus among the punditry. According to polls, we learn that U.S. Americans like immigrants, just not too many at once. Support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and (depending on how it is asked) holders of Temporary Protected Status, but also want a “secure border” and seem nervous about Central Americans seeking asylum. Strong pluralities, want to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement around, and majorities oppose family separation at the border as a policy.
And thus, we have, with some variation, the emerging policy consensus from Democrats on immigration: Support “good" immigrants, e.g., Dreamers and TPS holders - provided they follow the law; oppose building a wall, but more fencing, border patrol agents, security cameras, and drones are great; if forced to mention ICE, speak only of reform; be clear that family separation at the border is “unamerican,” but do nothing to change the laws that have created the problem. And, yes, hope nobody asks about Central American refugees. It is largely a reactive agenda that does not seek to challenge U.S. Americans to think outside the margin of error.
Among the presidential aspirants in the Democratic party there are a some standouts on specific issues. Julian Castro, for example, is thus far the only Democratic candidate to offer a @JulianCastro_63280/putting-people-first-e0f765cee00c">detailed platform on immigration. His platform includes eliminating Section 1325 of the immigration code, a law that stems from an effort to cut off migration from Mexico in the 1920’s. It is still on the books, and is the basis for criminal charges against immigrants for illegal entry and re-entry. He also calls for dividing ICE’s responsibilities between two agencies - in effect, separating border security and processing of immigration claims. This is an idea that has support from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Overall, however, Democrats are not yet offering much in the way of a counter-narrative to Trump’s continuous drumbeat of nativist pronouncements. It seems clear that as Trump is committed to making immigration the central feature of his campaign, Democrats will not be able to avoid the conversation, and thus need an actual strategy - hopefully one that goes beyond the safety of polling numbers. Afterall, they do have a majority in the House. Can they use it? From FiveThirtyEight:
Others stress that Democrats can’t just respond to Trump’s unpopular approach to immigration — the party needs its own comprehensive approach. Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions, told FiveThirtyEight that “Democrats need to be prepared to talk about the issue — not just reacting to what Trump says, but leading with some solutions to the complex and varied immigration issues the country is facing.” Barreto said he thinks immigration can be a winning issue not only with Latinos but also with the public at large, and that House Democrats should use their majority to pass a comprehensive reform package. Even though such legislation would almost certainly fail in the GOP-controlled Senate, the attempt would give Democratic presidential candidates something to refer to as they formulate their stances on immigration.
If the House leadership is to take up this challenge, there are ideas out there, and tested strategies that offer more humane (and cheaper) alternatives to the failed deterrence strategy of the current and past administrations. How does polling break down on the question, “Should all humans be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of where they were born?” Maybe we should start there.
Meanwhile, back in the White House…
Trump announced new regulations impacting asylum claims. Among the ideas outlined in his memorandum issued on Monday, is charging fees for filing an asylum claim, mandating that asylum claims be cleared within 180 days, denying work permits to asylum seekers if they entered the country illegally, and directing the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on visa overstays (this provision is not directly related to asylum). The Texas Tribune breaks down the details of the memo - and the process of moving from idea to enforcement.