Democratic presidential candidates are being warned that going “too far to the left” on immigration could leave them hurting in November.
The warning of potential general election losses due to their radical stands on decriminalizing border crossings comes not only from predictable sources but from top former Obama administration officials as well.
Former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson addressed the issue in a recent opinion piece for The Washington Post, calling for “some straight talk on immigration.”
Johnson argued that “we cannot, as some Democratic candidates for president now propose, publicly embrace a policy to not deport those who enter or remain in this country illegally unless they commit a crime.”
“This is tantamount to a public declaration (repeated and amplified by smugglers in Central America) that our borders are effectively open to all,” he wrote, adding that “we cannot formally decriminalize unauthorized entry into this country.”
“To win support from a vocal and committed segment of a major party’s base — and simply for the sake of a good applause line — candidates for office now espouse extreme policy proposals that are unworkable and have no hope of winning the broad support of Congress and the people they represent,” Johnson continued, noting that candidates for office “should not espouse campaign promises that have no prospect for success.”
Former President Obama’s top homeland security officials also expressed their disagreement with 2020 presidential contenders who indicated at the recent Democratic debates that they would support the decriminalization of border crossings.
“We can’t go too far to the left for what people could describe as open borders,” Marsha Catron, a former Obama administration deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security told The Hill.
“I think all of those people onstage who raised their hands will have to walk it back if they make it to the general election or the White House,” she added. “I understand the emotion involved, we want for people to be treated humanely and with respect, and that’s not happening with the Trump administration. But Jeh Johnson, [former Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, these people who have worked in these situations understand, you just can’t have it this way. It’s unworkable.”
Obama’s former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current 2020 hopeful, Julián Castro, has called for a repeal of the statute that makes it a federal misdemeanor to cross the border illegally. He has found other top contenders agreeing with his position, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Moderate Democrats like Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado are standing against repeal, siding with former Obama officials and against the party’s progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“As a party, we need to show simultaneously that we can treat people humanely and secure our border,” Bennet told The Hill.
Former Vice President Joe Biden set himself apart from the field after the debate when he clarified that, although he appeared to be in agreement with decriminalizing border crossings, he actually believes it should remain a federal offense.
But in a foreign policy speech Thursday in New York City, Biden declared, “I respect no borders, and cannot be contained by any walls.”
Joe Biden: “I respect no BORDERS, and cannot be contained by any walls.”
— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) July 11, 2019
A former Homeland Security Advisory Council member under Obama said the number of Democrats at the debates supporting the idea of decriminalization “shocked” her.
“Trump has given us a great opportunity to address what our immigration policy should be as a nation that was once a beacon for humanity,” Juliette Kayyem said. “Instead, we’re focused on an issue that has no relevance to the debate. I understand what’s animating the repeal proponents, but if we were to get rid of every law that is abused by the Trump administration then we’d have no laws.”
“What we need is clarity on how to address an extremely challenging situation,” Cecilia Muñoz, formerly on Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, told The Hill. “This proposal to repeal Section 1325 is a distraction and it doesn’t do that.”
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