In a controversial Op-Ed published in the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald on Monday, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden said that Congress should immediately make recipients of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan citizens. Biden also took the opportunity to accuse President Donald Trump of “vilifying immigrants to score political points while implementing policies that ensure asylum seekers and refugees keep arriving at our border.”
The Op-Ed came as candidates began the fight over Hispanic voters in Florida — a key bloc which could determine the 2020 election.
“We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. Our country is made up of hard-working, aspirational people from every culture, from every nation — and that is an indisputable strength,” Biden wrote.
“There’s no better example of the richness that’s possible when the United States is closely knit together with our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean than the city of Miami. The next president must institute effective immigration reform while restoring regional policies grounded in respect.
“That starts by recognizing that DREAMers are Americans, and Congress needs to make it official. The millions of undocumented people in the United States can only be brought out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats,” the Op-Ed continued.
“Trump’s efforts to repeal Temporary Protected Status (TPS) across the board have injected unnecessary uncertainty into the lives of thousands of families. Our asylum system needs to be improved, but the answer is to streamline and strengthen it so that it benefits legitimate claims of those fleeing persecution, while reducing potential for abuse.”
Temporary Protected Status is a program which allows residents of countries ravaged by natural or man-made disasters to apply for temporary residency in the U.S. if they’re already here. This status can often last for decades beyond the cessation of the disaster. Hondurans, for instance, received TPS status in the late 1990s after Hurricane Mitch and still retain it pending a lawsuit.
As for the idea that “DREAMers are Americans,”Biden wasn’t just calling for DACA to be reinstated. Biden is demanding nothing short of full citizenship. While he’s somewhat unclear on the particulars, The Associated Press, Fox News and ABC News, among others, all took the passage to mean that Biden was specifically calling for not just immediate naturalization but immediate citizenship.
DACA, implemented unilaterally during the Obama administration, allowed individuals brought to the country illegally as children to apply for a two-year deferment from deportation and a work permit provided they met a series of preconditions, including not having broken any laws. It didn’t provide a pathway to citizenship.
Biden’s proposal would, according to his own rhetoric, “reflect American values.” But the plan doesn’t respect the fact that we have the right to decide who legally enters our country and who receives citizenship.
There were other controversial statements in Biden’s Op-Ed, including the familiar accusations of the Trump administration’s cruelty towards migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages, tear-gassing asylum seekers, ripping children from their mothers’ arms — actions that subvert American values and erode our ability to lead on the global stage,” Biden wrote.
If those scenes have “subvert[ed] American values and erode[d] our ability to lead on the global stage,” then why didn’t Biden say so during the Obama administration, when the “children in cages” images first surfaced. The Obama administration also used more tear gas at the border and actually implemented the current policy under which the gas is deployed. In case Biden forgets, he was next in line to the presidency under the Obama administration, which may have been a more constructive opportunity to press for change.
And then there were the old racism claims: “At a time when the challenges we face demand a united, regional response, Trump repeatedly invokes racist invective to describe anyone south of the Rio Grande, including calling migrants ‘animals.’ Rather than standing with our partners in the region to take on corruption, transnational criminal groups, climate change and threats to democracy and the rule of law, Trump’s wrong-headed policies are leading us astray at every turn,” Biden wrote.
The “migrants” Trump called “animals,” of course, were members of the international gang MS-13.
The rest of Biden’s Op-Ed was a study in circumspection, taking plenty of questionable shots at the Trump administration while offering very little in the way of concrete policy solutions.
Take this bit of vagueness: “Our asylum system needs to be improved, but the answer is to streamline and strengthen it so that it benefits legitimate claims of those fleeing persecution, while reducing potential for abuse.”
No description on how he plans to improve the system. No explanation of how he’ll make DREAMers American citizens. This is peak “Orange Man Bad”: just call the president racist, dust off a few old lies, throw a few vague policies at the wall, and hope it all sticks.
Of course, there’s a reason why Biden is focusing on Floridian Hispanics. As the Miami Herald reported in April, “Florida’s Hispanic electorate grew by 81 percent between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, and Hispanics who registered to vote as independents grew by 101 percent, meaning Hispanics are the fastest-growing portion of Florida’s electorate heading into the 2020 election.”
That’s why Latinos for Trump kicked off its 2020 campaign push in Florida on Tuesday, and it’s why Biden is busy courting voters by scaring them away from the president, paradoxically claiming that it’s Trump who wants to “scare voters to turn out on Election Day, while not addressing the real challenges facing our hemisphere.”
Biden didn’t address any of those “real challenges,” attempting to frighten a very particular segment of the electorate in hope of securing victory. At the kickoff event for Latinos for Trump, meanwhile, Vice President Pence said that the president “knows that a nation without borders is not a nation” and pointed out the low unemployment rate for Hispanic-Americans on Twitter.
Under President @realDonaldTrump’s leadership, in two and a half short years, we have the LOWEST unemployment rate ever recorded for Hispanic Americans! #LatinosForTrump #KeepAmericaGreat pic.twitter.com/d0xi562moU
— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) June 25, 2019
Out of curiosity, Mr. Biden, which campaign is trying to “scare” people into the voting booth? Which one is touting concrete policies? And which one of them trusts Latinos and Hispanics to make up their own mind about whether America necessarily owes citizenship to individuals who came here illegally? It seems like you may have things the wrong way around.
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