Several months ago, the Trump administration ended the President Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which gave work permits and protection from deportation to people illegally brought to America as children. Before it was rescinded, about 800,000 foreign citizens had been approved for the program, out of an estimated 1.8 million who are eligible.
Because DACA illegally sidestepped Congress and federal law, it was only ever a temporary measure. When ending the program, the Trump administration urged Congress to take action to provide DACA enrollees, also known as “Dreamers,” legal status. If Congress doesn’t act by March, recipients will begin falling out of the program, which could mean losing a job or deportation.
Many in Congress say they want to give the Dreamers legal status. But the White House and conservatives in Congress also want to restrict newly legalized DACA recipients’ ability to bring in non-spousal adult relatives from foreign countries, judging these adults as having more difficulty assimilating into American life. They also want money for increased border security, an end to the diversity-visa lottery to make room for more skills-based immigration, and a crackdown on cities and states that refuse to deport violent criminals.
The national government even shut down for several days at least partly over this issue. Then, last week, President Trump offered a deal: provide a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million people living in America brought here illegally as children, as long as they were not serious or serial criminals or dependent on taxpayers. The plan would also provide $25 billion to build a border wall with Mexico, end the 50,000 green cards given to foreigners based on country of origin—the diversity-visa lottery—and restrict family-based migration to only minor children and spouses.
Playing Politics With Serious Issues
Trump’s plan is totally reasonable, but the Democrats have rejected it, as have some on the Right. So far, Democrats have proposed only meager funding for border security, and find abhorrent any curbs on DACA recipients’ ability to bring in family members. As Mollie Hemingway has pointed out, likely Democrats don’t want a deal. They intend to use the DACA issue, and the resulting human toll, to get out the vote during the 2018 midterm elections.
This would be a terrible mistake for our country. Conservatives who care about the rule of law, are compassionate, and want to see the border secure need to fight back. But while Democrats play politics, too many Republicans are either all too willing to give Democrats what they want while receiving little in return, or secretly have no problem with porous borders.
If a resolution to this issue is to occur, conservatives in Congress and the Trump administration need to fight through the DC swarm and speak directly to the American people. They can do this most effectively by telling stories from Middle America that speak to the concerns of ordinary Americans. Here are a few stories out of many that show the way forward on immigration. The first story is my own.
Our Family’s Big Car Accident
It was several minutes before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, October 3, 2004, and we were going to church. My mother and my younger siblings were in our vehicle, a Chevy Suburban. I was driving.
We were in a 40 mph zone, in a small town of about 10,000 in southern Minnesota. Only several minutes from the church, the road from our perspective curved to the right. On the right side of the road a bike path was being constructed, and dirt was piled high enough that one couldn’t really see around what was already a sharp curve.
All of a sudden, a Chevy Lumina came hurtling around the corner. When it first appeared, it was swerving in the middle of the road, but as it took the curve the Lumina fishtailed, sliding sideways into our lane. As soon as I saw it, I could tell it was coming right at us. I immediately cranked the steering wheel to the left. The Lumina slammed into us, and everything went blank.
Police later told us that because of that quick turn to the left, instead of T-boning the oncoming car, the front of our Suburban hit the rear of the Lumina. This allowed the Lumina to spin off to the right and lessened the force of the impact. Things would have been a lot worse had that not happened, or if we had been in a smaller vehicle. From the time we saw the oncoming vehicle to impact was no more than two to three seconds –– the Lumina came at us at approximately 80 miles per hour just before the curve, and an estimated 60 mph upon impact.
I awoke to airbag dust and smoke filling our vehicle. My ears were ringing. As the ringing started to go away, I could hear my little siblings and mother crying. In a panic, I checked to see if everyone was okay, and eventually stumbled out of the vehicle. I don’t remember much else from that day. I do remember that my right forearm was dark purple, as cranking the wheel to the left had placed my forearm directly over the airbag when it exploded.
Thankfully, nobody in my family was seriously hurt, though my sister had braces and her mouth was bloodied. By providence, the younger kids sitting in the back had been wearing their seat belts. A few people in our vehicle had back pain after the accident, and I still have a herniated disk with the accompanying neck, shoulder, and arm issues, a result of the airbag blowing my arm back as my body went forward (my right arm and hand ache as I write this today).
U.S. Taxpayers Spent Many Thousands to Save This Man
The drunk driver was thrown from his car and almost died. Bystanders who ran a bait shop on that road, along with arriving police officers, administered emergency care and helped save the man’s life. He was later airlifted to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The man was not only drunk when he hit us, but had also snorted cocaine before heading down the road. If the man hadn’t hit us, we were told, it was likely he would have careened into a house or business on the other side of the road.
We moved on with our lives. The police officers told us the man had no insurance, and was in the United States illegally. Because of this, we assumed he was deported. We harbored no ill-will toward him, and were grateful that nobody had died.
Fast-forward to this month. While doing research to write about the accident, I found out the man had not been deported. For hitting us that Sunday morning, a judge convicted the man of driving under the influence and gave him less than a year of electronic monitoring and two years of probation. At the time of the accident, the man had several assault convictions, and four years after he hit us he was again charged with assault. All these charges were for domestic abuse. On one occasion he caused a woman permanent damage after hitting her, say court records.
As to why he was never deported, a retired police officer I talked to said “illegal immigration was not as big a deal [politically]” in 2004, so there was likely no state or local policy to inform Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of illegal immigrant crimes. I was also informed by a source with knowledge of the situation that sometime during the last decade, the man had received legal protection to live in the United States.
Some Are All-American Kids
Just as true is the story of a young man, let’s call him John, who was brought here as a child from Mexico. John worked hard in school, graduated, and works hard to support his family now. He’s the type of guy who knows all the police officers in my home town — not because he’s ever been in trouble, but because every time he sees a cop he walks up and says “Hi.” They say “Hi” back, big smiles all around. John is the most likeable guy you’d ever meet.
Then there is George, my friend. He was brought here as a baby while his parents had a “border-crossing visa.” All he remembers is America. George is patriotic — a strong guy, he tried to join the Marines after graduating high school, but was turned away because he didn’t have his legal status at the time. George is also very smart. He thought about going to college for civil engineering, but he and his family could not afford college without grants or loans.
For a while, George helped his parents, who have legal status, at a Hispanic grocery store in our home town. While working there, he was arrested by ICE and had to pay $13,000 to get out of “federal hold” at a jail in a town about an hour away. His parents eventually sold the business after his dad was diagnosed with cancer.
A few years after graduating high school, George eventually received a visa. He was excited to file taxes, and open a bank account. George told me “the American Dream is the ultimate dream.” He says many people take things like being able to get a driver’s license for granted. Not him. George recently married. He is working while his wife goes to college, and trying to save money for their first home at the same time. George hopes to be a small business owner someday.
Another young man, Jack, is from a town that sits a half-hour away from mine. Jack was also brought here illegally as a child. Jack grew up in a rough part of that town, and hung out with the wrong crowd for a while. He sold drugs for a spell. Now, Jack is a Christian. Jack and his family are friends with my mother. Jack used to drive a half hour to go to my parents’ church.
Eventually, my parents’ church helped him, his family, and his friends start a Hispanic-focused church in Jack’s hometown. Many people who go to this church came here illegally as adults. They all live family-oriented and productive lives, and are intertwined with their communities.
The Illegal Immigration Extremists Aren’t Conservatives
Stories like those of John’s, George’s, and Jack’s play out in millions of lives across America. Millions more came here illegally as adults and didn’t commit any crimes after coming to America. Many of these people are husbands, wives, brothers, or sisters of American citizens.
For every undocumented drunk driver, there are many Johns, Georges, and Jacks. But while its incidence is far less likely, the story of the illegal immigrant who was high on cocaine and drunk on a Sunday morning has also played out across the country. Many times the ending has been much worse than it was for my family.
Because of this, to pretend that illegal immigration is no problem jeopardizes the lives of ordinary Americans. Tucker Carlson has done a great job highlighting this. Several weeks ago, he reported that the U.S. Sentencing Commission finally released stats on the percent of federal crimes non-citizens have committed. Carlson noted that this data wasn’t collected for years, an oddity in a country that collects data on everything.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, non-citizens receive 22 percent of all federal murder convictions, 18 percent of fraud convictions, 33 percent of money laundering convictions, 29 percent of drug trafficking convictions, and 72 percent of convictions for drug possession. Non-citizens, meanwhile, make up 7 percent of the population.
Yet many on the Left and in the Democrat Party do pretend that illegal immigration is no problem. They say the problem is mean-spirited policies pushed by some Republicans, whose motive is racism. In this vein, the Washington Post recently wrote a highly sympathetic story about a dance instructor from Mongolia, here illegally, who now faces deportation after he was convicted of two DUIs and a hit-and-run.
At the Washington Post, multiple DUIs and a hit and run aren't deportation-worthy as long as you're a good dance instructor. https://t.co/zwnILvCkZ4
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) December 28, 2017
The Post makes sure to highlight that one of the dance instructor’s friends is now no longer a Republican because of the deportation proceedings. The story implies the proceedings are due to the harsh policies of the Trump administration. The problem? Barack Obama’s immigration order from 2015, which sought to narrow deportations to those convicted of serious crimes, specifically targeted convictions of DUIs and domestic violence as the non-felonious route to deportation.
But in 2018, the Left has become so extreme that laws Democrats recently passed in California and Oregon seek to stop the feds from deporting even serious criminals like rapists or murderers. Democrats used to at least claim that they wanted to secure the border. Why have Democrats become so extreme on illegal immigration?
Back in 1986, President Reagan and Congress passed an amnesty bill that helped change the political landscape of the United States. California used to be a Republican state, and now it is deep blue, in no small part due to an influx of immigrants from Mexico. Democrats hope to do the same thing to other states, such as Texas. Don’t take my word for it, they have only written about such a strategy a million times.
In fact, if most illegal immigrants were dyed-in-the-wool Republicans (many are but don’t know it, though that’s another story), Democrats would be chanting “Build a wall!” faster than Rep. Adam Schiff can say “Russia!” Democrats’ calculus is simple. Win permanent political power by importing a large group of people who will disproportionately support Democrats.
So even if open borders are bad for Americans, including Americans of Mexican descent, Democrats support open borders. This is a party that cares more about political power than about Americans’ safety or economic wellbeing.
To Fix Immigration, Look to Middle America
Trump’s immigration proposal strikes the balance that the stories from Middle America require. The Trump administration has also been continuing Obama’s policy of prioritizing certain crimes for deportation, and not directly going after illegal immigrants with family here who haven’t been convicted of a serious crime. Many of the heartbreaking deportations highlighted in the media today occurred under the Obama administration with little fanfare.
On the other side of the same coin, it is unacceptable that undocumented immigrants with a serious criminal history aren’t shown the door. The president is right to think that states like California should face consequences for flouting federal law. Finally, any elected official who cares about the safety of ordinary Americans and the rule of law should seek to end or significantly curtail future illegal immigration. This means, among other things, building the entire border wall.
The above moderate approach is what most people in Middle America hope for, Democrat or Republican. But if Democrats want to use this as a political issue, how do conservatives move forward?
First, call Democrats’ bluff. Put the above compromise — including a border wall — up for a vote and show America that the “compassionate” party really prioritizes political power. Explain why Democrats have a politically driven interest in a leaky Southern border. Then hold off on deporting non-criminal DACA recipients, and hammer Democrats for their refusal to make a common-sense bargain.
Make a case that the conservatives are not the extremists on illegal immigration. Tell stories of productive and successful immigrants, and tell stories of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. These stories are not, nor have they ever been, mutually exclusive. At some level, the people in flyover country have already figured all this stuff out. But voters need to know that their politicians have figured it out too.