May 20, 2019

Democrats can’t lead our country without taking seriously the border crisi

“I voted for a fence, I voted …, and some of you won't like it, I voted for 700 miles of fence.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, currently leading the Democratic pack in the 2020 presidential race, confessed to this in a 2006 speech to a South Carolina Rotary club, noting that as a senator he had supported the Secure Fence Act.

Today, such a remark is considered a cardinal sin among the Democratic Party’s growing progressive base. Biden’s forced partial walk-back in commenting about his vote shows just how out of step a Democratic White House would be in dealing with our ongoing border crisis.

The situation in which Democrats find themselves on immigration has been fascinating to witness. In what might seem like an alternative universe, many Democrats once had a reasonable, rational response to illegal immigration and border security. They understood that an unsecured border is a serious issue that must be addressed through national security and economic lenses.

Large numbers of illegal crossings can put downward pressure on wages and make life harder for working-class Americans. Potentially dangerous individuals can cross the border and pose a serious threat to the safety of Americans. And there’s the issue of the continual flow of illegal drugs through Mexico into the United States.

In the past, Republicans and Democrats worked together to confront these issues — including, as Biden noted, by funding 700 miles of border fence and other security measures. But bipartisan cooperation has been upended as Democrats today largely choose to ignore the deteriorating situation at the southern border and offer unserious solutions to these pressing issues. They’d rather pretend a crisis doesn’t exist, even though the facts at ground zero paint a clear picture.

Perhaps what best illustrates the problem of an unsecured border is the alarming amount of narcotics that smugglers attempt to bring into the United States each year:
 

  • Fentanyl seized by the U.S. Border Patrol increased from 0 pounds in fiscal year 2016 to a whopping 1,207 pounds for FY 2019 to date. For context, only 0.25 milligrams of fentanyl can kill a person. That is the equivalent of cutting one baby aspirin into more than 300 pieces. 
  • Other illegal drugs have flowed into the country. From 2012 to 2015, more than 32,000 pounds of cocaine and 17,000 pounds of methamphetamine were confiscated by the U.S. Border Patrol.

And it isn’t just drugs being trafficked into the United States but also people. Vulnerable families entrust much of their livelihoods to notoriously inhumane “coyotes” who promise them safe passage across the border. But for many families and children, this isn’t the case. This year alone, more than 2,200 individuals have been rescued from dangerous smugglers — including a 3-year-old boy who was abandoned in a field with nothing more than a name and phone number written on his shoe.

As President Trump has pointed out many times, members of the MS-13 gang, whose members use the catchphrase “kill, steal, rape, control,” have taken advantage of our unsecured border to illegally cross into the United States. Once inside, they terrorize local communities through violence and intimidation.

Yet, rather than supporting policies to address this crisis, Democrats have chosen to throw a big plate of red meat to their fringe base with the hope of appeasing them. Building walls and barriers to stop illegal crossings and drug trafficking? Ridiculous, they say. And instead of supporting the men and women of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they proposed to abolish ICE until they discovered the idea wasn’t that popular with voters.

At least one 2020 Democratic candidate — former congressman Beto O’Rourke — has said he believes that a portion of the existing wall should be torn down completely. And progressive officials in some of the sanctuary cities even want to provide illegal immigrants with benefits, such as health care and voting rights.


Any Democrat who attempts to step outside this new norm is instantly put in place. Just ask Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who executed a 180-degree turn on immigration after declaring herself a 2020 presidential candidate.

As the campaign begins to take shape, voters should think long and hard about who takes the issue of illegal immigration and border security seriously. Maybe in 2008 that included members of the Democratic Party, but one could easily argue that the party doesn’t live up to that standard in 2019. And a party that does not consider a crisis such as the one at our nation’s border to be serious cannot be trusted to lead.


Alex Titus is a policy adviser and fellow at America First Policies. Follow him on Twitter @atitus7.

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