Members of the immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha (The Harvest Movement) attempted to “shut down” Joe Biden during a forum in South Carolina yesterday. According to a reporter at the event, the activists first took issue with the former vice president saying undocumented immigrants should learn English, which polls show up to 96 percent of Hispanics support.
A video of the exchange shows one of the protesters, Carlos Rojas, confronting Biden with the Obama administration’s record of deportations and asking him if he would commit to stopping all deportations. “I will not stop all deportations,” said Biden, adding, “if you commit a crime, that’s a felony.” Rojas, joined by a handful of other activists, then began chanting, “Not one more deportation!”
This is not the first time Cosecha has heckled Biden. In June, protesters approached him in New Hampshire and demanded he apologize for deportations during the Obama presidency. The group subsequently issued a statement slamming the former vice president.
“[T]he Obama/Biden Administration had a choice,” it said, “and they chose to reinforce policies designed to criminalize our community. Ramping up the use of felony charges to expedite deportations on mothers and fathers trying to reunite with their families.”
Obama Was the “Deporter-in-Chief”
Obama’s immigration policies have long been a matter of contentious debate among the leftward flank of the Democratic Party. From 2009 through January 2017, immigration officials removed more than 5.3 million undocumented immigrants from the U.S. This has fueled accusations that Obama “paved the way for the Trump administration to implement its hard-line strategies around immigration.”
At a White House meeting in 2014, the president of the National Council of La Raza (now called UnidosUS), Janet Murguía, famously called the 44th president “the deporter-in-chief,” an attack which Univision anchor Jorge Ramos later parroted in an interview with Obama.
In September’s Democratic debate, presidential candidate Julián Castro, who worked for Obama, blasted Biden for his former boss’s record on the issue. “He wants to take credit for Obama’s work, but not have to answer any questions!”
What’s the Alternative?
As the American son of Latin American immigrants, I am deeply sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families. That said, I have always been struck by the left’s failure to offer realistic policy alternatives that balance our noble tradition of welcoming immigrants with the right to select who enters our country and the government’s affirmative responsibility to keep Americans safe. Unfortunately, immigration activists and opportunistic politicians are often quick to denounce border enforcement measures while being short on specifics and long on platitudes.
Castro’s immigration plan, for example, barely addresses removals except to say he opposes deporting victims of sexual assault (who already have protections) and favors allowing deported veterans to re-enter the U.S.
For all the shots Castro and immigrant rights groups take at the Obama-Biden policies, records show most immigrants deported during their administration had criminal convictions. Activists often retort by pointing to studies showing that most of the deported “criminal aliens” are charged with “victimless crimes” and a lower incarceration rate among the undocumented population.
This all may be true, and clearly most immigrants are not violent criminals, but it still means thousands of people are being hurt each year by criminals who have no business being in America in the first place.
Real-Life Victims, Not Just Statistics
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s annual operations report, there were 5,350 sexual assault charges and convictions levied against undocumented immigrants last year. This is in addition to 50,753 non-sexual assault charges and 2,028 homicide cases.
These are not just statistics; they are thousands of preventable human tragedies. Among them is an underage Maryland teenager who told authorities she now has a hard time using the bathroom after being sexually assaulted by her step-father, an undocumented Honduran national. It was “very painful” and left her with a “stinging” feeling, she said.
Another is an 11-year-old Ohio girl who is now pregnant after a 26-year-old undocumented Guatemalan man raped her and later hid her in his bedroom. In Quincy, Massachusetts, a 50-year-old Cuban man was charged with raping a woman on a college campus last year despite having the kind of deportation order many activists oppose enforcing.
In fact, Cosecha insists, “Any and all detention and deportations are a manifestation of family separation.” Not only is this absurd, it is immoral to tell families whom criminals have irrevocably harmed that they must live alongside their attackers.
Presumably, in the view of some progressive activists, Americans just have to deal with the criminality — since, after all, “no one is illegal on stolen land,” as they claim.
Hispanics Aren’t Buying It
Americans — including a majority of Hispanics who favor deporting undocumented immigrants who commit crimes — are not buying what activists and some progressives are selling. Joe Biden deserves credit for not acquiescing to the tantrums of radicals, but he and sensible Democrats should consider how their knee-jerk criticisms of the White House’s border protection measures help fan the flames of extremism that are now being aimed at them. For the millions of immigrants who reside in the country illegally, Hispanic Americans support a pathway forward that does not require deporting decent people who just want to work and raise their families. They also recognize the importance of learning English, having strong borders, and living in safe communities. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.
Progressives, who seem blinded by the glare from their indefatigable virtue signaling, may want to pump the brakes on their Subarus before they follow groups like Cosecha off a cliff. It should come as no surprise that Biden currently leads the Democratic field among Hispanic voters, while Castro sits at a miserable 2 percent, even as he reminds people of the acento in his name.
Most Latinos love America, their families, and their communities — and are certainly far more sensible than some on the left would like to believe.