Trump’s Lies About Immigration Have Come Full Circle

We should probably check to see if there was a break in the space/time continuum on Tuesday, because otherwise it is impossible to imagine Donald Trump declaring that he agrees with Barack Obama 100 percent. And yet, it happened.

Ever since Trump jumped on the birtherism bandwagon back in 2012, the former president has been one of his favorite go-to targets for derision and lies. So what gives? Why would Trump decide to align himself with the words of someone he has treated as his arch-enemy?

The only way to answer that question is to remember that, when it comes to immigration, everything the current president has told us is a lie. Among his favorites is the one about how Democrats favor open borders. Trump is confident that his lie has so deeply permeated our consciousness that he now feels free to loop back with a claim that even President Obama once favored border security.

In many ways Trump is right about the impact of his lies. Too many people have completely forgotten what the Democratic position is on immigration because Republicans have lied about it so much for so long. That was brought home Tuesday when NeverTrumper David Frum decided to give Democrats some advice.

For Trump’s opponents, the caravan represents a trap. Has Trump’s radical nativism so counter-radicalized them that they have internalized the caravan message against any border enforcement at all? If yes, they will not help immigrants. They will only marginalize themselves—and American politics will follow the European path in which anti-immigration parties of the extreme right cannibalize the political center.

If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do.

For a while now Frum has demonstrated his ability to call the current president out on his lies. But obviously he swallowed the one about Democrats favoring open borders hook, line, and sinker. However, the real problem with Frum’s analysis is that he conflates illegal border crossers with asylum seekers. Keep in mind that stronger border security would do nothing to address the latter.

The vast majority of Central American migrants who reach the border are turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents, claiming a fear of return and a desire to seek asylum. More National Guard troops and the border wall that Trump has proposed would be largely irrelevant, experts have said.

Central American asylum seekers pose a whole different set of challenges to our immigration system. When there was a spike in the summer of 2014, the Obama administration drew a lot of criticism for their attempts to set up family detention centers. But they also worked on developing more humane alternatives and worked with the countries of origin to ameliorate the issues that drove people from their homes. In other words, they took a comprehensive approach to a complex issue.

The same can be said of the Democratic approach to overall immigration reform. The bipartisan bill that passed the senate in 2013 (but was halted by Republicans from being considered in the house) included enhancements to border security. Even the provision of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are currently in the U.S. put them at the back of the line when it comes to those who have sought legal entrance, and made no distinction in what is lawfully required for citizenship.

We’ve now spent over two years being exposed to a drumbeat of lies from Trump about immigrants and refugees, as well as the Democratic position on reform of our system. That’s nothing new or unusual. Republicans can’t honestly represent the positions of their opponents because it wouldn’t provide the kind of fear-mongering their campaigns rely on. But in an interesting twist from Trump in that tweet up above, we are reminded that Democrats actually aren’t in favor of open borders.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.