Columnist argues Biden is falling into the same trap as Obama on immigration

Columnist argues Biden is falling into the same trap as Obama on immigration
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers a statement to the press on the economy, in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 9, 2012.


When Barack Obama was president, the centrist Democrat was criticized by some activists on the left for having an aggressive policy of deporting undocumented immigrants — while far-right Republicans accused him of promoting lawlessness at the border. Los Angeles Times opinion writer Jean Guerrero, this week in her column, argues that President Joe Biden now finds himself facing the type of immigration challenges that Obama was facing a decade ago. And she argues that the far right will accuse him of favoring “open borders” regardless of what he does.

“President Biden is making the same mistake President Obama made in his first term: catering to xenophobes while performing compassion toward immigrants,” Guerrero writes. “The strategy lays out the red carpet for Trumpism 2.0. Either Democrats dramatically reinvent the immigration debate in defense of multiracial democracy, or they reinforce White paranoia and accelerate our descent into White nationalism. They can’t have it both ways.”

Obama’s immigration policy was attacked from both the left and the right when he was president. Watching “Al Punto” — a news program that airs on the Spanish-language Univision network on Sunday mornings — during the Obama years, it wasn’t uncommon to hear some Latino activists disparagingly referring to Obama as el rey de las deportaciones,” which means “the king of deportations” in Spanish. Others referred to Obama as “el deportador en jefe,” meaning “the deporter in chief.”

But ironically, one could easily flip over to Fox News or Fox Business and hear far-right pundits claiming that Obama and then-Vice President Biden were pushing an open-borders policy.

“By ramping up deportations to historic levels while claiming he was focused on felons, (Obama) conflated immigration with criminality in the average mind,” Guerrero recalls. “Nativists then used his decision not to deport Dreamers — people brought to the U.S. as children — to paint him as an open-borders president.”

The lesson for Biden, Guerrero adds, is that he will never please Republicans when it comes to immigration.

“No matter what Biden does,” Guerrero emphasizes, “Republicans will attack his policies as ‘open borders.’ No matter how few people make it to the U.S., Fox News will send cameras to conjure a border apocalypse. Neither Biden nor the Democrats can control that. What they can control is whether they take the bait by playing into and promoting anti-immigrant panic…. Republicans understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the agenda; on that, they have benefited enormously from media outlets actively normalizing anti-immigrant hysteria.”

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