If President Donald Trump were paid a dime every time critics call his anti-illegal immigration policy “racist,” he’d double his net worth. Never mind that at one time, President Bill Clinton, former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid, former Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., all warned about the problems associated with illegal immigration.
Reid, for example, railed against birthright citizenship in 1993: “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship.” Apart from America, the only other rich, industrial countries that allow birthright citizenship — automatically bestowed at birth — are Canada and Chile. Not a single European country permits this.
As to legal immigration, Trump, too, stands accused of racism for seeking to end “chain migration” and for arguing that legal immigrants must benefit America, rather than the other way around.
But recently, Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 presidential rival, and former Secretary of State John Kerry argued that Europe should enact more restrictive immigration policies. “I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” said Clinton last week in an interview with The Guardian, referring to the hot-button issue of immigration among voters. “I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken by leaders like (Germany’s) Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part and must send a very clear message — ‘we are not going to be able to continue (to) provide refuge and support’ — because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
Eskinder Negash, the president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a migrant rights organization, told The New York Times that he “was kind of shocked” by Clinton’s statement. “If she’s simply saying you need to cut down on refugees coming to Europe to ask for asylum because they have a well-founded fear of persecution, just to appease some right-wing political leaders, it’s just not the right thing to do,” said Negash.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called Clinton’s words a “deeply misguided and unfortunate comment from someone who must know better.” Former Clinton adviser Peter Daou tweeted: “Why is #HillaryClinton playing into the hands of right-wing haters? The problem isn’t the migrants, it’s the xenophobes. I try to avoid politics on #Thanksgiving but this is just wrong.” Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith tweeted: “This is a sickening capitulation on her part. You don’t stop racism by giving in to racists.” New Yorker staff writer Osita Nwanevu tweeted: “Climate change, a crisis created by the developed world, is going to force poor people across the globe to move in order to survive. The approach Clinton is advocating will be a death sentence for millions and millions of people, and we should be clear about that.”
In response to the criticism, Clinton blamed Trump. “Trump has made it worse with cruel abuses at the border,” tweeted Clinton, “detaining children and separating them from their families. It’s one of the most shameful moments in our history.” But in her “clarification,” she still sounded like Trump. “In a recent interview,” Clinton tweeted, “I talked about how Europe must reject right-wing nationalism and authoritarianism, including by addressing migration with courage and compassion. … On both sides of the Atlantic, we need reform. Not open borders, but immigration laws enforced with fairness and respect for human rights. We can’t let fear or bias force us to give up the values that have made our democracies both great and good. … The EU needs a more comprehensive policy that builds societies that are both secure and welcoming.”
Kerry, speaking at a recent event in London one week before Clinton’s interview, also warned Europe about its immigration policy, which in the last few years has admitted millions of migrants, mostly from the Greater Middle East and Africa. Kerry warned: “Europe’s already crushed under this transformation that’s taken place because of immigration. Germany — Angela Merkel, weakened because of it. And other places impacted, Italy — significantly impacted its politics by immigration.”
Then there’s the Dalai Lama. Two years ago, before Trump became the Republican nominee for president, the Dalai Lama said, “There are too many (migrants) now. … Europe, for example, Germany, cannot become an Arab country. Germany is Germany. … From a moral point of view, too, I think that refugees should only be admitted temporarily.”
The criticism Clinton faced from the left over her practical, commonsensical analysis says a lot about where Democrats stand on immigration — legal and illegal. Much of the Democratic base ignores this issue, is indifferent about it or has done a cost-benefit analysis and believes that immigrants-turned-citizens-turned-mostly-Democrat-voters outweigh the financial, social or political price.
Larry Elder is a writer and syndicated radio host.