Bad Faith Has Moved The Overton Window on Immigration

Bad Faith Has Moved The Overton Window on Immigration

This is an election year, so you know what that means: It’s time to demonize the hell out of immigrants and freak out about migrants at the Southern border.

Republicans' newest stab is the proposed “bipartisan” Senate bill put forward by Senators Lankford, Sinema, and Murphy, tying military funding for Ukraine and Israel to draconian bans on immigration that the right has sought for decades. Despite Democrats' complete and embarrassing capitulation to the right’s demands, Republicans have called this bill dead on arrival in the House and said it is unlikely to even see a vote on the Senate floor. Republicans' refusal to cooperate with Democrats is due to one reason: They need immigration as an issue to run on in November. It's all they've got.

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Republicans don't give a damn about immigration. They love our broken immigration system and will protect it at all costs. Capital, to whom both parties are beholden, needs the easily exploited undocumented underclass created by our immigration system. Republicans’ concern isn't about keeping migrants from being exploited or "protecting our nation's sovereignty." A crisis at our southern border is part of the Republican Party's larger strategy to engender racial resentment and utilize white identitarian politics to get working-class people to vote against their economic and material interests. It's no surprise that Donald Trump and his minions will oppose addressing the crisis; they’re bad-faith political actors of the most extreme kind.

The bad faith this time, ironically, is a good thing. Why is that? The immigration bill is trash, the politics surrounding it are moronic and short sighted, and Democratic leadership and elites should be ashamed of defending it. I'm relieved the far-right Republicans who control the House are too stubborn and pig-headed to know when to say yes.

A Political Compromise From Hell

Let's dive into the proposed legislation. The immigration portion of the bill is tied to billions in military aid to Ukraine and Israel. Does anyone remember the DREAMERs? Pathway to citizenship? Gone are the days when Democrats pretend to give a shit about any of those people in immigration negotiations. Instead, the Democrats “get” $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and $14 billion to continue Israel’s military assault on Gaza. This much military aid, on top of the almost $900,000,000,000 we already spend on “defense” shouldn't be a top Democratic priority; what does this have to do with our Southern border? If these are so important that it's worth throwing our immigration system to the wolves, why not just have a clean bill and make Republicans defend their position? The most obvious answer is probably the correct one. In America, it doesn't matter who you gotta fuck over to keep the war machine churning. 

I'm not writing this to debate the effectiveness or necessity of our military-industrial complex. That's for another time. This bill's immigration section is disgusting. It represents a massive shift to the right in the Overton window on immigration. As a result of this "once in a generation compromise," the president would have unilateral authority to close the border, deport most migrants seeking asylum before their claims even have a chance to be processed, in opposition to current international and domestic asylum laws. When 4,000 migrants are encountered by Border Patrol Agents per day, the president can shut down all border crossings. This becomes mandatory when 5,000 migrants are encountered per day. This should scare the shit out of anyone, even Biden supporters who believe he won't abuse this power. Another president, like a certain orange-toned asshole, could easily abuse this authority and prevent any credible asylum claims from being heard. The guy running for president in defense of white supremacy should not have this power.

This bill will overhaul the asylum system even when the border isn't essentially closed. It would increase the standards in the initial screening process, which experts believe would greatly reduce the number of asylum seekers who would pass. Asylum officers would take over the process entirely, allowing them to decide on claims without the aid of an attorney. Precious few people would be able to gain asylum status in the US.

That's what people on the right want. The fewer people who gain asylum, the fewer brown people who enter the country. It's what their insane White Replacement Theory is all about. Take a moment to imagine what hell migrants are going through. They aren't rapists and murderers, as Trump would have you believe. They're desperate families, escaping violence and poverty often caused and perpetuated by U.S. foreign policy. Imagine making the arduous trip to the US, seeking a better life for you and your children, only to be immediately told to fuck off back to where you came from.

Give me your tired, your poor, my ass.

How many of us would be here today if these were our immigration policies a hundred years ago? How much growth and ingenuity would we have missed out on?

Despite the deplorable policy capitulation of Democrats, this bill will not become law. Rather, the politics surrounding this bill and immigration in general will have a far greater impact on the 2024 election cycle. It's the whole reason Republicans want the border crisis to continue unabated. Democrats know this too, but as usual, Democratic leaders' strategy is stuck in some imagined past. The sad thing is, people like Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer think this is a positive outcome for their party. They truly think they have shown Republicans to be hypocritical and incapable of actually conducting government. They’ve shown the squishy Morning Joe constituency that the Republicans are completely unreasonable. Despite that being true, the average American voter doesn't give a fuck.

The real issue here is that Democrats have completely conceded this bad-faith assertion that there's a border invasion taking place. They've fed into the right's bad-faith narrative around the border. Both sides are now telling the average person that this issue represents a crisis. That the way to solve it is more militarization of the border, increases in ICE funding amounting to double its annual budget, and a less humane asylum process. Biden would implement these policies, the same policies Trump champions, if only Congress would let him. The official Democratic position has moved so far to the right that it is almost indistinguishable from the positions Trump took when he first ran for president, save for the rhetoric and a god awful spray tan. Think of that: Democrats are now to the right of 2016 Trump on immigration. What a victory for Republicans.

In poll after poll, the biggest issue with Biden has been his age. This isn't just a number, it's the fact that he is perceived as a weak leader. Dems have now essentially allowed the narrative to become that there is a crisis the president is incapable of solving. Why is he incapable of solving it? Because his opponent is so powerful that he can control Congress despite not even being in power. If you're a lower information voter for whom immigration has become the number one issue, who the hell are you going to vote for? The weak leader who can’t get Congress to do anything or the all-powerful strongman who can seemingly bend Congress to his will?

Republican intransigence has given Democrats a chance, albeit slim, to offer a compassionate alternative to this proposed immigration policy.

The far-right assholes who have taken control of the Republican Party may have saved Democrats from themselves. Rather than enacting inhumane policies, and owning the inevitable suffering caused by those policies, Dems can present an alternative that treats migrants as people rather than criminals. Instead of pouring more money into punitive bureaucracies like ICE, they can help the underfunded and overworked bureaucracies meant to process asylum claims and other legal immigration. They can stress the importance of clearing the backlog for visa claims and pathways to citizenship.

Perhaps they can end this false binary of an “open” or “closed” border. Maybe we can help the countries migrants are escaping and create better processes to file for immigration and asylum there, eliminating the need to beg for asylum at the Southern border? Democrats must tell the American public that this isn't an invasion by a vile “other,” but human beings striving for a better life, in the same way your ancestors came to this country.

Follow Anthony Reimer on Twitter at @mrmeseeksff. If you'd like to contribute to Bad Faith Times, email Denny Carter at