Hey Democrats: Your base wants a better deal

“If liberals are so f&%#ing smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?”

Will McAvoy posed this question in the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom almost six years ago, and its truthfulness has yet to be undone.

The United States government officially shut down on January 20th, 2018, one full year after Donald J. Trump first took office; it ended three days later when the Democratic Party caved into falsified spin and intentional hostage-taking by the GOP, successfully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program—which republicans had refused to renew since the summer—for six years, and allowing GOP leadership to accuse democrats of withholding military pay despite Claire McCaskill introducing an amendment that same leadership shot down.

Sure, funding CHIP is an objectively good thing. But the reason its funding was ever in question to begin with has already exited public consciousness, and there’s little reason to expect it will show up in any campaign ads this year. What will be most remembered by an important part of the democratic electorate so desperately needed for the party to have any chance at a groundswell is the rapid, idiotic crumbling leadership made on protections for recipients under the now-dissolved Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Faced with standing their ground until demands on CHIP and DACA were met, or accepting a promise as hollow as the shell of the man offering it, democrats chose the latter. Yes, they listened to Mitch McConnell promise a possible future vote on a possible deal to possibly protect DACA recipients, heard he also had a pot of magic beans he’d throw into the lot, and decided this was definitely the best option from a clearly trustworthy salesman.

For all their sacrifices, democrats were met with Stephen “Whiter Than The Whitest Kids U’Know And A Thousand Times More Racist” Miller’s proposal via the White House—one dubbed by In These Times as “a white nationalist wish list.”

They’re not wrong. Let’s go through the line items:

  • Protection from deportation is offered for an estimated 1,800,000 people who immigrated to the United States as children, and a path to citizenship outlined to take 10-12 years to complete; a nice offer on the surface—and the only one found in the entire proposal—except for a pesky line that states protection and citizenship can revoked for “public safety concerns” that are never defined.

  • Family reunification, the process which allows a naturalized citizen to sponsor members of their family for consideration to immigrate to the United States, would be restricted solely to children under 18, and spouses. This is pitched as a way to support and focus on “nuclear family,” which fails on two fronts; first, parents and children—regardless of age—are part of the nuclear family structure, by definition; second, extended family members are an important resource regardless of culture, but especially so in the United States, where costs of child care are prohibitive, wages remain stagnant, and parental leave for childbirth is still almost non-existent. 

  • Closure of the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, based on unexplained, unsourced, and unverified claims of fraud and abuse. We’ll go into more about this program later, but you should note that the Diversity Immigrant Visa and family reunification were both created primarily to increase immigration of white europeans.

  • A trust fund to be created with $25,000,000,000 in taxpayer funds, earmarked for a wall along the US-Mexico border and increased security on the Canadian border. The latter earmark likely relates to people fleeing the United States for fear of deportation and abuse. 

  • Additional funding, beyond the trust described above, for increased personnel in several sectors of our immigration system, from border patrol agents to immigration court judges.

  • Closure of loopholes. What loopholes? No idea. Miller’s document doesn’t name a single one.

  • Ensuring the detention and removal of gang members, violent offenders, and aggravated felons—a thing that already happens, isn’t new, and with which sanctuary cities already comply.

  • The prompt removal of border crossers, regardless of their country of origin. Details are skimpy, but it can be reasonably inferred this would include refugees escaping violence, and people being dropped in Mexico even if they’re from somewhere in South America.

  • Reformation of immigration courts to reduce fraud and abuse, cases of which are again neither cited nor explained.

Before we dig into the illogical nonsense contained in Miller’s proposal, it’s worth pointing out there are a few places where common ground can be reached, even if said ground is more akin to a pebble than a continent.

Protection for immigrants brought to the United States as children is absolutely something that must happen. Wide swaths of the left and a some parts of the right agree on this issue without fail, with bipartisan agreement among some elected officials. Orrin Hatch and Dick Durbin created the DREAM Act (from which the term DREAMers was born) all the way back in 2001, while Lindsey “Trump’s Crazy But I Like To Golf” Graham has joined with Durbin and others to tell Trump he must support DACA recipients. The fact a clean, simple DREAM Act hasn’t been signed into law despite 75% of American voters supporting the legislation in one way or another underscores a very broken representational system in Congress.

Increasing the number of judges working immigration courts also greatly enhances the overall system. For one, it’d reduce the chances that a person in detention or called to a hearing has to hope their lawyer is willing to drive 531 miles, often leaving detainees without access to any legal representation. Another positive effect would be far fewer—and, hopefully, zero—people sitting in a detention center for four years before getting a hearing. 

Staff increases elsewhere in the immigration system can be beneficial, too. Perhaps, with more staff to process important documents and more judges in more courts, we could eradicate instances in which people legally granted permission to live in the United States are deported for missing a hearing 1,500 miles away, and never notified about to begin with.

Finally, there’s nobody I’ve encountered in all my time monitoring politics who opposes the deportation of violent criminals. The inclusion of this idea as something new and unheard of in Miller’s proposal is nothing more than a falsified smear of immigration advocacy, spawned in the same hamsterless wheel as the idea sanctuary cities are hellscapes where mayors order police to release serial rapists from prison so long as they’re an immigrant or refugee. No, sanctuary cities aren’t hellscapes and no, immigration advocates aren’t asking the United States to let violent criminals stay here. Alex Jones has been one of the main peddlers of this lie, and he abruptly backed down when faced with having to prove his falsified reporting in court. Miller’s only gotten away with it because he hasn’t tried to get into specifics at this point.

So, yes, there are points on changing (or keeping as is) our immigration system that you and your Fox News-watching cousin might both agree on. They’re not major, groundbreaking concepts, but they do exist.

Here’s where you are right to tell that cousin to go find the most unkicked rock in the world and help it catch up to the top ten.

Protection for immigrants brought to the United States as children absolutely should not be used as a bargaining chip, as was attempted with the government shutdown, and this is doubly so when the bargain being requested includes severely harmful modifications to existing immigration procedures or laws. The necessity of protecting those both receiving and eligible under DACA provisions cannot be compromised with the inclusion of caveats ripe for exploitation such as “revocation due to public safety concerns” that are undefined, either; allowing these caveats enables a rug-pulling situation in which a purge is carried out under the banner of falsified or unfounded claims.

The arbitrary restriction proposed for family reunification lacks any grounding in reality. Its justification from the White House was communicated through fears of foreign-born terrorists being granted residence in the United States by other immigrants, specifically due to December’s failed pipe bomb explosion in New York City by a Bangladeshi immigrant named Akayed Ullah, who was sponsored by his uncle—a US citizen himself. In fact, barely half of a single percent of all terrorism-related deaths on American soil since 1975 have been caused by individuals granted permanent residency via a “green card,” which is the exact status of immigration granted to anyone allowed into the country by family reunification. Family reunification simply isn’t a feasible entry point for terrorists, as indicated by both hard data and common sense. After all, the process itself can take as long as 12 years to complete, and requires the exact kind of vetting Trump has called for yet seems to believe never existed

But the union of fabrication and scaremongering doesn’t stop there. You may remember a resounding call from the right-wing political sphere to support the president’s demand of ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa program following a deadly vehicle attack in New York City last year by Sayfullo Saipov. The push to end the program has to do with Saipov originating from Uzbekistan—a US ally—and gaining permanent residency status thanks to the program. Several facts never appear in politicized discussion of this incident, the biggest one being Saipov had no actual ties to terror networks but instead self-radicalized after several years living in the United States. His receipt of a visa is often used to deign the entire program as a threat, yet he is one of only three terrorists ever to enter the country in the diversity visa lottery, the others being an Egyptian national who killed two people in 2002, and another immigrant from Uzbekistan who was arrested for threatening to kill Barack Obama. How many people are accepted in the program each year? 50,000. For a program that’s existed in one form or another since 1986, three recipients being arrested on or convicted of terrorism charges is a drop in a bucket the size of Neptune.

It wouldn’t make sense for anyone planning an act of terrorism to try gaining access through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, anyway; upwards of 10,000,000 people apply each year, and your chance of even getting your application looked at is 1 out of 400. Should you be lucky enough to have your application reviewed, you’ll need to meet a heavy list of requirements:

  • Completed a high school education or worked for two years in a profession that requires at least two years of training/experience to perform

  • No criminal background

  • Demonstrable means of supporting yourself

  • Certifiable good health

  • Extensive background check, which can take months or years

  • Be from a qualifying country that has had minimal immigration in the last five years

If your information under any of these criteria gives even the slightest hint of trouble, you’re gone. You’d have a better chance entering the country by swimming across an ocean than entering this lottery, especially if your intention is to commit an act of terrorism.

With the “fear of terrorism” card clearly not holding up to scrutiny, what is it, then, that might be motivating the right-wing politicos and electorate to oppose two parts of our immigration system that have existed for decades? Well, it could be the lack of whiteness.

See, for roughly the first ten years of its existence, the visa program which would eventually become the Diversity Immigrant Visa very heavily favored majority white countries. Applicants from Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland were the top visa recipients by design, as the program was a first come, first serve system—mostly advertised in those countries. After a few years, people noticed how this was a bit blatant on the racism, and adjusted the rules a bit to where Irish applicants—previously receiving 40% of the total visas given out—dropped to only 1% of recipients. Then, lawmakers decided being blatant wasn’t so bad, and adjusted everything again so white countries got the benefit over everyone else.

In 1994, the system as we know it today first came into existence. And, of course, this meant a lot less white, European immigrants were arriving on American shores, which also meant less family reunification involving white, European people. What happens when white people no longer get an unfair advantage in life? They complain that the game is rigged against them in favor of people of color, and try to dismantle the whole place.

When it comes to immigration, the booming economy of the mid-to-late 90s meant not a lot of people were looking for scapegoats in their paychecks; they instead focused on jailing black people for using the same drugs as white people, and cutting welfare by imposing arbitrary restrictions (much like Miller wants to do with immigration). But a post-9/11 United States, combined with a slower economy recovering from a recession and possibly heading for another one, means people from countries other than the US are to blame for all the problems in the US, as dictated by billionaires in the US who are responsible for most of the problems in the US.

Your rock-kicking cousin probably blames their crappy paycheck on someone from Mexico (despite living in a county with 99% of the population being white), believing the existence of a Mexican equates to depressed wages. In fact, immigration—both undocumented and through the proper channels—carries no harm to wages of US citizens, and even causes modest increases in earnings. It turns out that US citizens adapt pretty well, find employment in sectors requiring better English communication skills that immigrants may not possess, and benefit from immigrants creating new businesses or industries that employ people throughout the country. Maybe your cousin should focus on the US-born billionaires who think 20 years of service deserve a $1,000 bonus and being laid off in celebration of getting a tax cut, yeah?

But, ok, your cousin might agree that obscenely rich people kinda suck a lot. (Hey, more common pebbles!) That doesn’t change the fact that they think Alex Jones was right about Twin Falls, Idaho, and believe Jones only backed down because he’s just super poor from fighting the gay frog-making machine. As far as your cousin cares to know, immigration of non-whites brings waves of rape and murder wherever it happens!

Your cousin would be wrong again, unsurprisingly. Countless studies have come to the same conclusion time after time: immigrants commit lower rates of crime than people born within the United States. Moreso, as immigration has increased, crime has actually decreased, possibly indicating higher indication is a good force to counteract environments that may encourage criminal behavior. This is not to say there have been no immigrants who have committed heinous acts, but that eradicating immigration entirely and conducting mass deportations would have zero impact on the crime rates, and could even cause crime to increase in the aftermath. If your cousin wants to be scared of someone, they’re more likely to be killed by their confederate flag-waving neighbor or a police officer than some accountant from Chad who lives down the street.

Their last contention might be that their taxes are going to support free college for a DREAMer and their ten “chain migrated” family members on welfare; their last contention would be as correct as Donald J. Trump is about crowd sizes. The former allegation is a grave misunderstanding enabled by right-wing propaganda and a failure of the liberal establishment to properly control the message when it comes to programs like DACA. 

Nobody who receives protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program takes anything from the True American™ white taxpayer. DACA recipients are granted nothing more than official permission to work in the United States, and a faltering promise they won’t be deported unless they engage in a criminal act. There’s no free college, nor does it entitle them to free public schooling; the latter actually comes from a 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, which found it unconstitutional to charge undocumented immigrants for schooling when citizens were not subject to the same costs, and that excluding undocumented children from education would contribute to “the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.”

While there is evidence to suggest first-generation immigrants can be linked to increased spending in tax dollars, this primarily is due to their children being part of the school system. The overall effect, however, is actually a credit to government budgets, not negative; generations succeeding the first contribute much more to the economy and tax flow than they take out, effectively paying back what was spent on their schooling by finding employment, creating businesses, and innovating in the economy. Unemployment among Diversity Immigrant Visa recipients is also incredibly low—to the tune of roughly 1% in 2015, with the number for all green card holders being 5.1%. Who really drains the tax dollars? Multi-billion dollar companies and industries like coal and oil, who essentially couldn’t function in the United States without all the subsidies provided from the government. There’s also good ol’ Walmart, whose artificially low wages cause thousands of their employees to require assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and medicaid. 

At this point, your cousin is right to resign themselves to painting that rock they kicked with a giant, vibrant, and lime green message of, “I’m sorry I was hating people for reasons that don’t make sense.” But we started out giving the Democratic Party a rough go of it, didn’t we?

So let’s circle on back and make the message loud and clear to ‘em:

Any deal the current White House—and especially Stephen Miller, Mitch McConnell, or most of the high-profile republicans—could possibly offer you on immigration or any of its provisions is a lie of epic proportions meant to benefit nobody but the tiki torch-carrying Richard Spencers of the nation.

Reject it. Reject it every time it’s offered. Miller’s wish list is almost verbatim the same thing as Tom “I Waste Police Resources By Calling Them About Constituents Whose Questions I’m Too Scared To Answer” Cotton’s RAISE Act from last year. You knew that was a load of garbage then, and you know it now, yet you caved into McTurtle’s lazy bullying and bought his promise when you had all the bargaining power in the world during the government shutdown.

You might say the trade-off was good, that it gave you leverage for the next shutdown battle on February 8th, but you’d be deserving of replacing our newly reformed cousin in front of their beautiful rock for believing so. The deal you made took a toll on millions of good people who worry they’ll be the next to get deported just for speaking freely about our government; it made every DACA recipient, every DREAMer you keep pledging loyalty towards, fear they’re a day away from losing protection despite following all the rules; it made important voices decide they can’t trust you to stand up for their communities at all.

The deal you made was a f&%#ing bad deal, and the Democratic Party needs to stop losing so goddamn always on the most important policy battles of generations to come. I know you can be better, we all want you to be better, but you’ve got to want it, too.

Grow a spine and get to work before your voters decide to cut a better deal with someone who will stand up for them.

Amala Network is currently a one-man operation from Middle of Nowhere, Nebraska. Want to support more writing like this? Check out the Support Us section of amalanetwork.com for ways to donate and stay in touch!