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“Should Democrats Trade the Southern Border for Ukraine?”

Just before Christmas 2023, I posted a partial of a Thom Hartmann commentary (reader: Jim Han suggestion), a radio personality, is liberal or progressive in his beliefs, and has other sides of politics, etc. on his radio broadcasts. Yes, he makes money by having his views and discussing other views on his show. I am starting to see others take up the issues at the Mexico-US border. But not in the way, I would hope they would take it up. These are people who I would mostly agree with from time to time. Today, they are starting to present a different dialogue to which I do not agree as it promotes a Republican lie. The following is a reposting of what I posted December 20, 2023. Not very old, still relevant, and I believe to be the right message.

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Just before Christmas 2023, I posted a partial of a Thom Hartmann commentary (reader: Jim Han suggestion), a radio personality, is liberal or progressive in his beliefs, and has other sides of politics, etc. on his radio broadcasts. Yes, he makes money by having his views and discussing other views on his show.

I am starting to see others take up the issues at the Mexico-US border. But not in the way, I would hope they would take it up. These are people who I would mostly agree with from time to time. Today, they are starting to present a different dialogue to which I do not agree as it promotes a Republican lie. The following is a reposting of what I posted December 20, 2023. Not very old, still relevant, and I believe to be the right message.

This time, I am posting the entire dialogue. It is long . . .


Should Democrats Trade the Southern Border for Ukraine?” Daily Take, Radio Personality Thom Hartmann.

If the GOP’s price for aid for Ukraine and Israel is to stop the flow of immigrants into this country for year or so, I say pay the ransom…

It may be time for Democrats to engage in some good-old-fashioned backroom dealmaking. If they do it right, they can strip Republicans of one of their most potent electoral issues while setting the stage for true reform of what has become a true American crisis.

Russian President Putin pushes Donald Trump to sabotage US aid to Ukraine, and Trump has passed the word along to Republicans that anybody who doesn’t go along with him will face a primary challenger.

Trump just doubled down on it this weekend in New Hampshire, praising Putin up one side and down the other while quoting Orbán and Hitler that immigration by nonwhite people “poisons the blood” of a nation.

In an attempt to appease Trump and Putin, Republicans in the Senate claim they’re putting together a “security” deal to send foreign and military aid to Ukraine and Israel while also “securing” our southern border from immigrants and asylum seekers.

Democrats first dismissed the proposed “deal” as bad-faith bargaining, pointing out that Republicans were demanding “poison pill” radical changes to our asylum and immigration policies and border security without being willing to engage in any sort of discussion about actual reform of our broken systems.

And broken they are. The last successful attempt at comprehensive immigration reform, The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA or Simpson–Mazzoli), happened in 1986.  Ever since then, Republicans have opposed or obstructed every good-faith effort by Democrats to come up with a bipartisan solution to the crisis on our southern border. And, yes, it is a crisis.

Republicans don’t want a solution because having a border crisis involving brown-skinned people works out really well for them, as it has for rightwing governments all across the world.

Viktor Orbán rose to power as Hungary’s “soft fascism” dictator by pointing to the brown-skinned Syrian refugees who were fleeing Putin’s bombing of that country and promising to “build a wall” along Hungary’s southern border to keep them out; it’s a promise he has kept.

Across the rest of Europe, rightwing parties are doing as Trump and Orbán did and pointing to brown-skinned immigrants as the largest and most immediate threat to the “blood and soil” of their nations. They include the neofascist Brothers of Italy (which now runs that country) and the Lega party, the Swiss People’s Party (Switzerland’s largest), the Finns Party in Finland, the National Rally (formerly the National Front) in the Netherlands, Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, the United Kingdom Independence Party in the UK, and the Freedom Party in Austria.

In an apparent homage to Ron DeSantis’ shipping asylum-seekers to Martha’s Vineyard and New York, Russian President Putin has been sending brown-skinned immigrants to the Finnish border in such numbers that the Finns have been forced to close all the border crossings they share with Russia (an 832-mile-long stretch).

Russia is apparently now playing the role of human traffickers, helping these refugees from Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen find unmonitored places along the border where they can sneak across, correctly believing that a flood of refugees will politically upset Finland and help out the pro-Putin rightwing parties there.

On this side of the Atlantic, the issue of the browning of America has been panicking white supremacists since the Reagan administration, when the change to our immigration laws in 1965 with the Hart-Cellar Act — which ended racial immigration quotas going back to 1921 that were designed to keep America white — was becoming obvious.

In 1960, 84 percent of all immigrants to the US were white, as the 1921 law required. By 2017, only 13.2 percent of immigrants were white. 

Should it then surprise anybody that the white supremacists who make up the base of the GOP flipped out about immigration? Or that Republican politicians would know this and hammer it at every opportunity, while refusing to participate in any real solutions because the “border crisis” works to their political advantage?

This is, after all, foundational to the “great replacement theory” that Trump, Alex Jones, David Duke, and multiple Republican politicians have been endorsing ever since “very fine people” were chanting “Jews will not replace us [with Black or Hispanic people]” in Charlottesville.

Republican rhetoric on the issue has become so predictable that Richard Haas, normally a reasonable voice on foreign policy issues, had to be corrected on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show yesterday when he said that Democrats favor an “open border policy.”

In fact, it’s Libertarians who believe all countries should have open borders, or that more immigrants coming to America is a good thing because it increases the supply of low-wage labor that businesses so love. Rand Paul, for example, has sponsored legislation that would increase immigration to the US.

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from inviting as many people as possible to come to America, by proclaiming that our border is “wide open” because, they say, of Democratic Party policies.

While no elected Democrat I can find has ever called for “open borders,” Republicans keep saying that Democrats are for open borders and that they’ve gotten their way and the southern border is now wide open.

Thus, while it’s true that two factors have driven a lot of migration over the past few decades (climate change wiping out farmland, and political dysfunction and gangs caused by the Reagan administration illegally devastating the governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), the main driver of would-be immigrants and refugees today is the Republican Party itself.

Lacking any actual, substantive economic issues to run on, the GOP has decided to fall back on a familiar ploy: scare white people that brown people are coming for them and/or their jobs. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember well how the GOP’s pitch to white people was that Black people wanted “our” jobs; now it’s brown people from south of the border.

Trump did this in the most crude, vulgar, and racist way possible from his first entrance into the Republican primary through the end of his presidency and to this day. It frightened enough white voters that it got him into office once, and the GOP is hoping they can repeat that trick in 2024.

In doing so, they’re playing with fire. Their lies about American policies are causing refugees to put their lives and their families in danger.

The truth is that Joe Biden never “opened” our southern border. “Open borders” have never been his policy or the Democratic Party’s policy or, indeed, the policy of any elected Democrat or Democratic strategist in post-1921 American history. 

Everybody understands and agrees that for a country to function it must regulate immigration, and its borders must have a reasonable level of integrity. Everybody. But you’d never know that from watching Fox “News” or listening to rightwing podcasts or hate radio whenever there is a Democrat in the White House.

Republicans are playing a very dangerous game here. By loudly proclaiming “their” lie that Biden has “opened” the southern border and is “welcoming” immigrants and refugees “with open arms.” They are creating the very problem they’re pointing to.

Just google “open border” and “congressman,” “congresswoman,” or “senator” and you’ll get a list of Republican politicians too long to print. These are the quotes that coyotes — human smugglers — print out and distribute to desperate people in Central and South America as advertisements to get people to trade their lives’ savings for transportation to the Rio Grande.

At the top of that list, of course, you’ll find the most contemptible Republican demagogues:

— Ted Cruz wants everybody south of our border to know that the “Biden Open Border Policy [is] A Very Craven Political Decision”;
— Rick Scott wants everybody to know that “Americans Don’t Want [Biden’s] Open Borders”;
— Marco Rubio says there’s “Nothing Compassionate About Biden’s Open Border Policies”;
— Rand Paul is so extreme he tells us Senator Rubio “is the one for an open border”;
— Josh Hawley says “Biden’s Open Border Policy Has Created a Moral Crisis”;
— Tom Cotton “Insists the Border is Wide Open”;
— Ron Johnson wants the world to know that “Our National Security is at Risk Because Democrats have Turned Border Security into a Partisan Issue”;
— Marjorie Taylor Greene “BLASTS Open Border Hypocrites”;
— Mo Brooks opposes “Socialist Democrats’ Open Border Policies for Helping Kill Americans”;
— Lauren Boebert says the “Root Cause” of the open border crisis “is in the White House”;
— Matt Gaetz “revealed a complex and deceitful agenda by Joe Biden’s Democrat administration to evade our Southern Border law enforcement”;
— Gym Jordan says “Biden’s Deliberate Support of Illegal Immigration Could Lead to Impeachment”;
— Kevin McCarthy says the Biden Administration has “Utterly Failed” to secure the “open border”;
— Elise Stefanik proclaims “Biden’s Open Border Policies have been a Complete Disaster.”
— Tom Cole’s website features “Biden’s Open Border America”;  
— Bob Goode brags about introducing legislation named the “Close Biden’s Open Border Act”;
— John Rose “Calls Out Biden’s Open Border Policies”;
— Paul Gosar claims Biden is “Destroying America with His Open Border Policies”;
— Roger Williams complains about the “Democrats’ Open Border Problem”;
— Tom Cole wants the world to know that Biden’s “open border policies have given the green light to migrants and bad actors from around the world…”;
— Gus Bilirakis “Denounces Dangerous Open Border Policies on the House Floor”;

The list goes on and on, and these messages have spread all across Central and South America, just as Republicans hoped they would, driven by human smugglers following the profit motive.

Based on an intentional GOP lie.

And the small percentage of migrants who actually get through our border and survive the trek across deadly deserts provide more cheap labor for Republicans’ big donors’ factories and construction sites, along with more brown-skinned people they can demonize as “replacing” white Americans on Fox “News.” Win-win for the GOP. 

The hypocrisy is obvious: if Republicans were really worried that immigrants were diluting the labor pool and driving down wages (their main non-racist argument), they’d be pushing for an E-Verify kind of mandatory citizenship-confirmation system like most other countries have.

Instead, they refuse to even consider such legislation that would help us regulate our labor markets and discourage purely economically-motivated immigrants in favor of true refugees.

I lived and worked in Germany for a year, and it took me months to get a work-permit from that government to do so. I worked in Australia, too, and the process of getting that work-permit took a couple of months.

In both cases, it was my employers who were most worried about my successfully getting the work permits and did most of the work to make it happen. There’s an important reason for that.

The way that most countries prevent undocumented immigrants from disrupting their economies and causing cheap labor competition with their citizens is by putting employers in jail when they hire people who don’t have the right to work in that country. 

We used to do this in the United States. 

In the 1920s, the US began regulating immigration and similarly put into place laws regulating who could hire people to legally work in this country and who couldn’t. 

Because there was so much demand for low-wage immigrant labor in the food belt of California during harvest season, President Dwight Eisenhower experimented with a program in the 1950s that granted season-long passes to workers from Mexico.

Millions took him up on it, but his Bracero program failed because employers controlled the permits, and far too many used that control to threaten people who objected to having their wages stolen or refused to tolerate physical or sexual abuse.

A similar dynamic is at work today.

Employers and even neighbors extract free labor or other favors of all sorts from undocumented immigrants in the United States, using the threat of deportation and the violence of ICE as a cudgel. Undocumented immigrants working here end up afraid to call the police when they’re the victims of, or witnesses to crimes.

Everybody loses except the GOP and the employers they’re in bed with, who get a cheap, pliable, easily-threatened source of labor that is afraid to talk back or report abuses.

The tragedy is in the lives of the desperate people who listened to these Republican lies and got robbed, raped, or even killed trying to make it here.

They pack all their belongings into a single backpack, bid tearful goodbyes to friends and family, and begin a grueling journey facing dangers of death, kidnapping, rape, and violence. They are fathers, mothers, and children.

Quite literally taking their lives in their hands because they believed cynical, unfeeling, uncaring, sociopathic Republican politicians who are lying for political gain.

That said (and speaking as the grandson of immigrants), there is a limit to how much immigration a nation, region, state, or city can withstand before things start to break down.

Southern Republican governors are shipping their newly-arrived immigrants into New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other Blue cities to force Democrats to confront the proportions of the problem we have today because of all these GOP proclamations that the border is “wide open.”

And it’s working. New York’s Mayor Adams has said that the influx of immigrants is “destroying” his city; dozens of other Blue cities across America are straining under the load, particularly as winter is here and our broken immigration system denies these new asylum seekers work permits.

So perhaps it’s time for Democrats to turn the tables on the GOP and take this topic off the table until after November’s election. Go along with their demands to “close” the border, stop admitting refugees and immigrants, and fund a deportation system for those people who’ve not yet been processed.

Point out how years of Republicans and rightwing media “inviting” people here with “open border rhetoric” has crashed the system. Declare a state of emergency and allocate funds to help Mexico and “sending” nations deal with people who’ve been turned away from our border. And demand comprehensive immigration reform.

The simple reality is that no nation can absorb immigrants beyond a certain threshold without producing a backlash.  

Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians aren’t the only ones this argument has been used against: “racial” discrimination based on these superior/inferior theories was widespread in America against Irish, Italians, and Poles from the mid-19th through the early 20th century. 

Racially-motivated” anti-Irish violence was particularly vicious in Boston and New York after the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s drove immigration to America; in 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese made a movie about it, Gangs of New York, set in 1865.   

At the moment, this issue is relatively quiet; Republicans haven’t yet gone into campaign mode. But, just as predictably as “caravans!!!” from the South appear on Fox “News” a month or two before every federal election when there’s a Democrat in the White House, the GOP will start screaming about all those brown-skinned people coming here next summer and it’ll be a deafening roar by the November election.

If the GOP’s price for aid for Ukraine is to stop the flow of immigrants into this country for year or so, I say pay the ransom.

It’ll politically neuter Republicans, get aid to our democratic allies who are under attack (although the Israel aid should be conditional on ending the bombing and embracing a two-state solution), and give a much-needed break to the Blue cities Abbott and DeSantis are trying to break.

Hold your nose and go for it, Democrats, if you can get even an objectionable deal; one that’s not completely insane. In the final analysis it’ll be best for America and for future refugees and immigrants who deserve a system that actually works and can deal with their asylum or citizenship applications in a reasonable and timely manner.

I realize that some of my progressive colleagues, both in broadcasting and in print, will immediately object. However, if you present to the American people the case that this is necessary to help save democracy around the world and ultimately here in America, and that it is a small but temporary compromise, it’s a risk worth taking.

Americans really do care about freedom and the future of this nation, of the democracy and constitution for which so many Americans have given their lives, in battle and in a thousand other ways.

Make the deal.

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