Fareed Zakaria–Democrats may be walking into an immigration trap

June 25, 2018

Fareed Zakaria–Democrats may be walking into an immigration trap

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria


Image result for trump reverses immigration policy

U.S. President Donald Trump moved to end the separation of children from their undocumented immigrant parents signing an executive order that would change the controversial practice resulting from his administration’s enforcement of a “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Democrats are exultant that President Trump had to reverse his policy of separating immigrant families at the border. And there is good reason to celebrate: The policy was immoral, mean-spirited and unnecessary. But I do wonder whether this episode will prove to be as damaging to the president as liberals think. With this tussle, Trump sent a clear reminder to his supporters of one simple thing — that he is willing to get tough on immigration.

The President’s cruelty made it easy to oppose his policy. But in their delight at the Trump administration’s latest misstep, Democrats may be walking into a trap. The larger question is surely: Should the country enforce its immigration laws or, if circumvented, should we just give up?

According to a U.N. report, last year the United States became the world’s leading destination for asylum seekers, with a 44 percent increase of Central Americans, who made up almost half the total at about 140,000. David Frum suggests in the Atlantic that most of these people are probably coming to escape poverty rather than violence (which has been declining) and that many hope bringing children will help them avoid punishment. That’s why, when asked in 2014 about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who had come to the border, Hillary Clinton responded, “We have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. We don’t want to send a message that’s contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”

Immigration has become an issue that passionately motivates a large group of Americans, perhaps like no other. Some of this might be rooted in racism. But it also represents a kind of heightened nationalism. In an era of rampant globalization, people want to believe that they still maintain some sense of stability and control.

Image result for trump reverses immigration policy

Immigration has become an issue that passionately motivates a large group of Americans, perhaps like no other. Some of this might be rooted in racism. But it also represents a kind of heightened nationalism. In an era of rampant globalization, people want to believe that they still maintain some sense of stability and control.

Nationalism has been around for centuries, but it is now, in a sense, the last doctrine standing. The great story of the 20th century was the loss of faith. Between the ascendance of science, socialism and secularism, people lost their trust in the dogmas and duties of religion. But this didn’t change the reality that they wanted something they could believe in, something with which they could have a deep, emotional bond.

Nationalism has increasingly become that substitute for many on the right, being endowed with a strong and almost mystical attachment. For many on the left, by contrast, nationalism is more of an irrational affinity for a group of people with whom one shares an arbitrary border. Why should, say, a devout Catholic in New Hampshire feel a closer connection to a radical atheist who lives about 2,500 miles away in California compared with a fellow Catholic a few hundred miles away in Canada? But such has been the power of nationalism that it continues to move people to great acts of courage, loyalty, cruelty and hatred.

Immigration has become the litmus test of nationalism, perhaps because other sources have faded or become politically unmentionable. There was a time when nationalism was deeply intertwined in many corners of the globe with religion or ethnicity. And it would be openly and proudly described in those terms. But as Western societies became more diverse, and as minority groups within them asserted their own identities, it became more difficult to define nationalism by those older ingredients. So what remains? How does one define a nation?

For Americans, political ideas and ideology have always been at the heart. That is why being a communist could be thought of as “un-American.” But beyond ideology, there has also been, even in America, a more emotional conception of the nation. And immigration has become a proxy for that gut feeling — the sense that the country must be able to define itself, choose whom it will allow to come in and privilege its citizens over foreigners.

The solutions to America’s broken immigration system are complicated. But Democrats would do well to remember plain symbolism as well, something Bill Clinton and Barack Obama never forgot, which is why their rhetoric and actions on immigration were often far more centrist than those of many current Democratic leaders.

Image result for trump reverses immigration policy

In politics, people recall a few simple things. To illustrate that point, a pollster in the 1980s once told me a story. A focus group asked a man whom he would vote for, Ronald Reagan or his Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale. “Reagan,” the man said. “Mondale is a communist.” The pollster explained that this wasn’t true. The man replied, “Well, maybe. I’ll still vote for Reagan. One thing I know, no one’s ever thought he was a communist!”

Trump might have lost this round. But no one will ever think he’s soft on illegal immigration.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

7 thoughts on “Fareed Zakaria–Democrats may be walking into an immigration trap

  1. USA currently has a population of 330 million, of which some 40+ % are below poverty level & the govt. has to spend dollars on them. 330 million is a market by itself & new refugees & illegals are not required. Charity should start @ home first. USA should follow other countries such as Australia, New Zealand,Canada etc & accept only immigrants with professional & technical skills. Refugee numbers should be small & meet strict security & status checks. The current refugee problem is a result of non enforcement of immigration laws. The broken immigration system badly needs reforms & politics should be set aside by Congress which should work on bipartisan basis to solve this problem. No other country allows its immigration laws to be taken advantage off & be a heaven for refugees

    • “The current refugee problem is a result of non enforcement of immigration laws.” Kalwant Bassi.
      Do you know how difficult it is to get refugee status in the US? The process can take years and years. Enforcement by ICE and DHS is done on a daily basis. There’s also e-verify system to check on the status of a prospective employee. ICE conducts raids on a daily basis and employers are penalized heavily for employing undocumented or illegal aliens. Not sure how you can come out with that statement. Please elaborate and give me an education here.

  2. Open Trade and Open Boarders is the future for the Third World. Free flow of capital must be accompanied by the free flow of labour, so the argument goes. The best people who can decide on this issue are the migrants themselves. Would they want more migrants to compete with them? Economic Migràtion, Open Boarders as advocated by certain groups, and refugees are being forced to fit the two sides of the humanitarian coin. When you toss this coin there will be more losers than winners.

    • aiyak! Can I check if you have source for this also?
      //The current refugee problem is a result of non enforcement of immigration laws.
      Both me and my wife kept getting frustrated by our own immigration process going through our airport, especially of the point that we might possibly need to declare our social (facebook, whatsapp) handles. It will allow me to sleep better if there is some reliable source for this.

  3. Anyone who has visited the Statute of Liberty in Ellis Island, New York, must have read the poem “The New Colossus”, written by American poet Emma Lazarus, that is cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This is what America stands for, and Donald Trump is trying to destroy it.

    But American people do not forget. A record number of Americans in the latest Gallup Poll say they believe that more immigration is a positive thing for the United States. The new poll, released on Thursday, said that fully 75% of Americans are of the opinion that immigration is good for the nation, while just 19% said it is bad for the country. According to Gallup, the percentage of poll respondents who indicated that immigration is positive went up 4 percentage points when compared to their 2017 poll asking the same questions.

    This Gallup’s poll was published at a time when Trump has created a fierce immigration debate that is dividing the country and causing an international uproar. On Thursday Republican controlled Congress failed to pass an immigration reform bill and on Friday Donald Trump went on Twitter suggesting that the GOP give up on trying to pass any immigration legislation.

    In the meantime, thousands of children have been taken from their parents at the US-Mexico border while attempting to come into the country without proper documentation, many of whom are seeking asylum status. Some of these children may never be reunited with their parents children due to a lack of a US government policy or program to do this.

    The Trump Administration is behaving like a Mafia Organization. According to The Texas Tribune, children who have been forcibly taken from their migrant parents are being held as hostages so that the parents will agree to voluntary deportation. The newspaper is reporting that adults who illegally crossed the border into Texas with children are “being pressured by government officials” to sign voluntary deportation orders and are being told that doing so will allow them to be reunited with their children. They are told that if they don’t sign the orders they will be deported without their children.


    These latest reports make clear that Donald Trump will do anything he can, no matter how cruel and evil, to deport asylum seekers and get them to give up their legal rights. Over the weekend Trump said that these people should have no due process or other rights under the US Constitution. But they do.

    And still, lurking the background, is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump failed to renew, threatening deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came into the country illegally as children. Polls have always shown that most Americans do not approve of what Trump and the Republicans are doing, and want the DACA program extended.

    Gallup found that there is 84% for “legal immigration” with just 13% opposed. On top of that, according to Gallup: “A record-low number of Americans — 29% — say that immigration into the US should be decreased. A plurality of 39% think immigration into the US should be kept at its present level, while 28% say it should be increased. These results mark a six-point drop from one year ago in the percentage of those preferring a reduction in immigration.” Very importantly, Gallup found that “the change in ‘decreased’ sentiment was roughly uniform across party affiliation.” This means that both Republicans and Democrats, as well as independents, do not favor Trump’s hard line immigration policies.

    Trump in his tweetstorm said there would be a “Red Wave” election in November, sweeping more Republicans into Congress. However, with the polls showing that large numbers of Americans do not like his immigration policies and actions, I believe it is much more likely to be a Blue Wave instead.
    LaMoy, I was privileged to read it as I scaled up the Statue of Liberty years ago. Reading it again in your comments moved me. Trump won’t appreciate it. He has been driving the country crazy. –Din Merican

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