In running for president, Joe Biden made promises to reverse many of Donald Trump’s policies on day one if elected, some of them primarily to appease the progressive wing of his party whose support he would need to defeat the incumbent president. Among them was the promise to replace Trump’s immigration restrictions with policies more consistent with our values as a nation of immigrants. Mr. Biden’s campaign rhetoric stressed the need for revised asylum policies, an end to border wall construction and more humane treatment of migrants, especially unaccompanied children. A Biden fundraising campaign featured a plan “for securing our values as a nation of immigrants” and excoriated Trump for “waging an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants.”
This trope has been routinely used by advocates of open borders to campaign for virtually unrestricted immigration and asylum policies. But let’s put aside some of the demagoguery that surrounds this topic and look at some relevant facts. It’s certainly true that we were founded as a nation of immigrants as were many other nations. We were a nation of slaveholders, too, but times change, thankfully, and so must policies that were formulated for very different times and circumstances.
In 1776, the combined population of the entire nation was only about 2.5 million. In 1803, when the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the country, it was still only about 5 million. Immigrants were not only welcome, they were needed to populate the vast region. During the period of heavy immigration from Europe, our population grew from a mere 23 million in 1850 to not more than 76 million in 1900. Immigrants were still needed to build the roads, bridges, railroads and other infrastructure and to settle the west. Today, our population stands at more than 332 million and is growing at about 0.5% annually, at least as far as we know because we can only estimate the number of those here illegally. And it is a richly diverse population with every racial category growing as a percent of the population except for non-Hispanic whites, adding to that diversity.
We no longer have the same urgent need for new immigrants to populate the land or to build infrastructure. We do use them to do the jobs that Americans won’t do because we are either too lazy, or because they don’t pay enough for us to live on in the style to which we are accustomed. We also need foreign scientists and engineers because not enough of our own citizens are pursuing science and engineering degrees. We have a large and growing homeless population living in the streets and millions more living in poverty, a step away from homelessness. We shouldn’t be looking to potentially add to that population until we can figure out how to care for those who are already here. Our public schools are in a state of progressive decay and are trying to reopen safely. The last thing that they need at the moment is an influx of non-English speaking students requiring remediation. Our medical facilities and staffs are stressed from dealing with a year of a COVID-19 pandemic. The last thing that they need now is an influx of patients who entered the country without being screened for anything. The national debt now surpasses $28 trillion, the interest on which will become unaffordable when the inevitable inflation causes interest rates to rise. With all the problems we are facing at home, this is really not a good time to be inviting the world’s huddled masses in.
And that’s exactly what Mr. Biden did by signaling the immediate unwinding of Trump’s immigration policies. Whatever the noble intent, the translation that trickled down to Central American villages was “Y’all come. With Biden in office, there will never be a better time. If your children can make it across the border, they’ll be allowed to stay and you’ll soon be allowed to rejoin them.” The Trump policies were far from perfect but Biden’s abrupt unwinding of them instantly made matters far worse. Unwinding policies was the easy step. Now comes the hard part. What’s the plan for dealing with the mess at the border that resulted? Perhaps Mr. Biden’s progressive handlers should have developed that plan first before having him open the floodgates.
The Biden administration concedes that there are no easy answers and begs for time and patience. But we don’t have time. Warmer weather is coming. Hundreds more will die or suffer trying to get here while bureaucrats try to develop a plan that will almost certainly require congressional action and meanwhile try to find relatives or sponsors for the kids being detained under primitive conditions, which are very likely even worse than we read about, given the reluctance on the part of authorities to give the media access to the holding facilities. In addition to the problems of detaining and caring for thousands of children, the chaos is facilitating human and drug smuggling across the border and posing a significant health risk in the midst of a pandemic.
Nor is blaming Trump for a broken immigration and asylum policy an acceptable excuse. These policies were broken long before Trump took office. Beside, Mr. Biden owned this mess the moment he unwound Trump‘s policies without a plan in place to deal with the surge that anyone with a brain should have known would result. He was quick enough to claim credit for the vaccine rollout that Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed made possible. How about just admitting that it was a mistake to unwind the Trump restrictions without a plan in place instead of fumbling for excuses?
And let’s knock off this demagoguery about our nation’s values and who we are as a people. Our nation’s values are what its people actually value, not what the politicians and talking heads in the mainstream media say they are. And a majority of Americans have indicated in poll after poll that they want secure borders, not recurrent chaos on the southern frontier.