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JOE GUZZARDI: Obama’s immigration warning to Biden
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JOE GUZZARDI: Obama’s immigration warning to Biden

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Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi

In a recent ABC “Good Morning America” interview with co-anchor Robin Roberts, former President Barack Obama sent a clear, but somewhat couched, warning signal to President Joe Biden.

Obama told Roberts that open borders are unsustainable, an observation that ABC subsequently edited out of the televised portion of the interview. Although Obama didn’t specifically mention that by ignoring open borders, Biden was risking the 2022 House and Senate races (and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority), that was his sub rosa message.

During his eight years in the White House, Obama learned much about Americans’ immigration opinions. In 2013, the Democratic-controlled Senate overwhelmingly passed an unpopular immigration bill commonly referred to as the Gang of Eight bill (the eight being the four Republicans and four Democrats who wrote the first draft).

By having an equal number of Republicans and Democrats as cosponsors, the Senate could promote the legislation as bipartisan. In fact, the onboard Gang of Eight Republicans had career-long pro-immigration voting records.

Looked at closely, the bill offered many benefits for the 11 million-plus illegal immigrants – immediate amnesty for the unlawfully present aliens, lifetime valid work permits, Social Security, health care and other affirmative benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted that, if it became law, the bill would create a net population growth of 10.4 million within a decade. The projected net population growth would also mean an increase of about 1.6 million temporary workers and their dependents. For citizens, however, the bill vaguely promised more border enforcement at some point down the road. The bottom line on the bill: amnesty right now; enforcement, maybe later.

Although Obama used his bully pulpit, and the media hailed the legislation, the majority of U.S. Representatives knew how unpopular the immigration bill was among their constituents and also were aware that their re-election bid was not far away.

Tellingly, from the Gang of Eight, only South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham faced voters in the then-upcoming November 2014 election. But his state was a Republican stronghold that hadn’t elected a Senate Democrat since 1954, when Strom Thurman – before he switched parties – won as a write-in candidate.

Analysts concluded that the senators knew that immigration bill was unpopular but hoped that by the time their turn at the polling place arrived, voters would forget. In the end, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid never forwarded the bill to the House for consideration, and it therefore never became law.

The Gang of Eight bill led to a 2014 disaster at the polls for Democrats. Republicans won nine Democratic-controlled seats, held the 15 seats they were defending and regained Senate control for the first time since 2007.

If pending immigration legislation angered voters in 2014, imagine what their sentiments will be in November 2022 after more than 2 million illegal immigrants, including thousands of Haitians, will have crossed into U.S. territory.

Biden’s Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas further rolled out the red carpet for illegal immigrants and added to voters’ ire when he said that illegal presence is no longer sufficient cause for deportation. Mayorkas’ statement represents a blatant immigration law violation, which requires the attorney general to remove aliens.

Citizens who must fund illegal immigration may be growing weary. In 2017, U.S. taxpayers doled out approximately $116 billion at the federal, state and local levels to provide for services to illegal aliens, according to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Biden’s gamble is that a year from now, the images of destitute Haitians gathered under the Del Rio bridge, and the unchecked Northern Triangle caravans entering the United States will be ancient history. But the current immigration crisis is more severe than the 2013 amnesty threat, and voters may be unwilling to forget how effortlessly Biden forfeited American sovereignty.

Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

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