Bloviating and Hypocrisy Reign Supreme in 2020 Fight Over Immigration

Joe Biden’s latest plank in his presidential platform, “Buy American,” attempts to cast President Trump as someone who is in the pocket of his rich cronies, whereas Biden’s plan allegedly would use $700 billion to leverage a revival of U.S. industries.

Being “in the pocket of rich cronies” is a strange accusation for Biden to level, given all the pockets, foreign and domestic, he and his family members have been caught swimming in up to their elbows these last four decades. No sooner had Biden announced his plan than Trump struck back: “He plagiarized from me, but he can never pull it off,” Trump said. “He likes plagiarizing.” 

It was a palpable hit. Biden does have a well-documented history of plagiarism, one which doomed a prior presidential campaign. But the rules of down-the-middle journalism no longer apply, and reporters and editors use their personal biases in determining what to publish and what to withhold. This clearly works to Biden’s favor.

Regardless of this back and forth, the facts indicate that in this instance, Biden is beating Trump at his own game. The Daily Caller reports that three months ago, the president’s trade czar Peter Navarro, put forward a plan similar to Biden’s—which was shot down because Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner, presidential advisor and “first son-in-law,” discouraged the president from pursuing it. 

So, no, strictly speaking, it wasn’t plagiarism that moved Biden to encourage a “Buy America” platform. It was almost certainly a leak about this internal dispute within the Trump campaign that bled into Biden’s campaign and, seeing Trump’s stasis, they moved to fill the vacuum and stake out that ground. The president, in short, has no one to blame but himself and his inner circle for getting outflanked here.

The president sharpened his attacks against Biden at a Rose Garden event, hammering him on the plan, as well as his open-borders, mass-immigration platforms. Notwithstanding Trump’s strategic error (if, indeed, choosing not to adopt Navarro’s plan was one), he’s right that there are plenty of reasons to doubt the seriousness of Biden’s “Buy American” platform. This is because among the other things, Biden plans to end deportations entirely for the first 100 days of his presidency, hobble the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and ensure a broad-based amnesty (presumably by executive fiat again, if it fails legislatively). So even if a spate of new industrial jobs were to come out of Biden’s “Buy American” plan,—who will be manning the shovels? 

We’ve seen this kind of fatuous thinking before. If there are no employer verification safeguards, and no worksite enforcement safeguards in place, chances are pretty good that employers, knowing a good thing when they see it, will opt for unauthorized workers so that they can sidestep all those nasty FICA and FLSA rules and taxes in favor of under-the-table employment. How, exactly, is that “buying American” or helping Americans and lawful alien workers to gain (or regain) employment?

But Trump himself has made a muddle, if not a mockery, of his once-tough platform on illegal immigration. Looking back on the past several years, so much of it seems to have been the equivalent of magical invocations to get the crowds stirred up at his campaign stops and celebratory events. (“Build the Wall!” “Mexico Will Pay!” “End DACA Now!” “Stop Sanctuary Cities” etc.) 

Despite Trump’s recent claim that “the wall” is almost complete, the truth is that his administration has fallen far short of the 450 miles it claimed would be done within his first term. Fox News reports that as of June, only 216 miles have been built—and much of that construction has just been replacement barriers for old, inadequate fencing. 

Furthermore, the administration has even dropped suggestions that somehow “Mexico will pay” or that it has in some amorphous way paid, because such suggestions no longer pass the laugh test. 

Even so, it remains the case that it is unlikely any other administration would have done so much as this one has done—or anything at all, for that matter. Just to take one “for instance,” consider the way it diverted Pentagon funding when stymied by Congress. What would happen in a second Trump administration is anyone’s guess, but it’s a certainty that nothing more would be built under a President Biden.

The track record on DACA is equally mixed. It took the Department of Homeland Security a very long time to develop either a plan or a policy on ending the Obama administration’s administrative amnesty, despite Trump promising to end it immediately during his 2016 campaign. Most readers will know that in a split decision, the Supreme Court refused to accept the administration’s argument that it had fully complied with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and tossed it back for further reconsideration. Since then, Trump has promised to recraft the policy memorandum and rationale to end DACA—but in a recent interview, Elaine Duke, who was his own acting DHS secretary at the time, admits that she sabotaged the original effort to end DACA by deliberately excising the policy reasons for doing so. 

This smacks of egregious malfeasance, but in many ways it is no surprise to those who follow these issues. From the start, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated flawed judgment about who to put in charge of the Department of Homeland Security, invariably selecting individuals who not only fail to carry out his policies, but actively work against them, the most recent example being Chad Wolf, a former lobbyist for the foreign worker program industry.

Over the years, the president has trampled on his own message in regard to ending DACA. Most recently—despite the administration allegedly moving to amend the APA “flaws” so that it can in fact terminate this extra-statutory presidential abuse of power, and despite the president’s pointed remarks about Biden’s big amnesty plans during the Rose Garden event—Numbers USA discovered that the White House met with representatives of the Koch brothers (ardent open borders libertarians) and amnesty advocates to discuss DACA. 

Just before that, the president had a televised interview on Telemundo in which he displayed an appalling ignorance of the separation of powers and the American process for making laws when he said he was going to issue an “immigration bill”— 

The deal was done. DACA is going to be just fine. We’re putting it in. It’s going to be just fine. And I am going to be, over the next few weeks, signing an immigration bill that a lot of people don’t know about. You have breaking news, but I’m signing a big immigration bill,” Trump told Díaz-Balart.

“Is that an executive order?” the anchor asked.

“I’m going to do a big executive order. I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it,” Trump responded. “But, we put it in, and we’re probably going to then be taking it out. We’re working out the legal complexities right now, but I’m going to be signing a very major immigration bill as an executive order, which the Supreme Court now, because of the DACA decision, has given me the power to do that.”

Nope, the Supreme Court did nothing of the sort. Needless to say, it drew an immediate backlash from more conservative thinkers such as Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who lashed out at the president for starting to go down the same road that led the Obama administration to exceed its lawful boundaries in promulgating the DACA program in the first place.

And these are not the only other areas in which the administration says one thing publicly but goes another route entirely in action and practice. Most recently, ICE, a subordinate DHS agency, sent out a trial balloon having to do with foreign student compliance and enforcement, only to have it promptly withdrawn after threats of litigation from institutions of learning such as Harvard and MIT, that feed on excessive foreign student tuition fees like pigs at the trough. This withdrawal can only embolden anti-enforcement activists in their constant crusade to dismantle the nation’s immigration laws.

In the end, for immigration restrictionists the question of who to vote for is a simple one: as muddled as his thinking often is, and as frequently as his plans are sabotaged from within or left incomplete because of an administration-wide kind of attention deficit disorder, the president is still the only game in town. Where immigration is concerned, Joe Biden, leaning ever left to please progressive road warriors, will likely be a Barack Obama on steroids, at least until his mental state reaches such an undeniable state of decline that his even more progressive vice president takes over.

But is that relatively stark election choice enough, especially for independent voters outside of Trump’s diehard base, the ones needed to push him to the finish for a second term? Hard to say. The problem with rolling out tough-sounding incantations at campaign stops-cum-pep rallies is that after a while, when even the most credulous don’t see much in the way of results, the magic is gone.

About Dan Cadman

Dan Cadman is a retired INS/ICE official with 30 years of government experience. He served as a senior supervisor and manager at headquarters, as well as at field offices both domestically and abroad. Within the immigration law enforcement field, Cadman's knowledge and experience encompass, among other things, criminal aliens, employer sanctions, and national security and terrorism matters.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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