Rep. Bob Gibbs: Democrats can work with the GOP on immigration instead of saving it for 2020

By | July 18, 2019

As the House passed a last-minute bill in June to provide humanitarian assistance funding for the recent influx of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, once-invisible cracks began to show in the wall of solidarity among Democrats. The extremist Left among House Democrats abandoned Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not committing to truly radical policies such as abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement or not detaining anyone arrested crossing the border illegally. Meanwhile, moderate Democrats were pushing Pelosi to accept reality and save their own political hide by bringing up the Senate’s version of the supplemental funding bill. The Senate bill was far from perfect, but it achieved the primary goal of increasing funding for various agencies to go toward the costs associated with detaining and processing those arrested crossing the border illegally. It includes increased funding for food and medical care for detainees, construction, and improvement of processing facilities, and transportation costs related to detention.

It took nearly 60 days from the time the Trump administration sent a formal request to Congress for supplemental funding for Democrats to finally pass something. Even then, it wasn’t until intraparty fighting spilled out into the headlines and Democrat leadership had to stanch the bleeding resulting from the fight. Pelosi’s forced hand to bring up the Senate’s supplemental funding bill on border security was about political expediency, not public policy. This leads to the question: What are the objectives and policy prescriptions of Democratic officeholders and candidates with respect to immigration and border security?

Recent events and legislation have enlightened the public as to what a larger Democratic policy on border security and immigration enforcement looks like. In terms of preventing and prosecuting illegal border crossings, Democrats are having none of it. Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker is vowing to “virtually eliminate immigrant detention,” while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, also a presidential candidate, has a proposal that would no longer make illegal border crossing a crime.

Such a proposal is not receiving a warm welcome even from former Obama officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, himself no fan of Republicans’ immigration policies. Johnson recently said decriminalizing illegal border crossing was “tantamount to declaring publicly we have open borders.”

Johnson hit the nail on the head: Dress these proposals up in any language, they are effectively open borders. They can protest all they want on what words to use, but it doesn’t negate their ultimate policy goals. After all, it’s been emblazoned on Democratic politicians’ clothing, as former congressman and former Democratic National Committee co-chairman Keith Ellison even wore a shirt declaring “I do not believe in borders” in Spanish.

Once an illegal immigrant successfully enters the United States, one could reasonably expect those elected to uphold the Constitution and protect the public to agree with the interior enforcement of immigration laws, right? Wrong. Just a few weeks ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was at a town hall in New York where she said “in terms of interior enforcement, what’s the point?”

“What’s the point” in enforcing current immigration laws? Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris agrees, having stated, “Absolutely not, they should not be deported,” when asked if people whose only crime was entering the United States illegally should be deported. Scores of Democratic officeholders have even spent the past year calling for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

For House Democrats, their deeds have matched these words. They supported H.R. 6, a terribly misguided bill that expands eligibility for temporary and permanent legal status to numbers well beyond just the “Dreamers,” or those brought to the United States as children, even to those who did not apply and regardless of when they arrived in the United States. It also loosens restrictions on those who would be inadmissible based on criminal background, making it easier for those who have a previous criminal history.

The consensus among Democrats on the campaign trail for president seems to be those here illegally should also be beneficiaries of government-paid healthcare benefits. During the second night of the Democrat’s first debate of the 2020 presidential election, all 10 candidates on stage raised their hands when asked if their government-run healthcare plans would extend medical coverage to illegal immigrants.

Consider the logical conclusion of these proposals: Under these policies, more people will cross the border without paperwork or legal permission because it is no longer a federal crime. The promise of Democrats’ H.R. 6 is to grant legal status for a wide swath of those here illegally, not just the “Dreamers.” They will avoid detention and, without ICE, there will be no enforcement of immigration laws inside the country. They would then be eligible for taxpayer-funded healthcare once Democrats institute their government-run healthcare program that bans private employer-sponsored health insurance.

Cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore have proudly proclaimed themselves sanctuary cities, refusing to assist immigration officials in enforcing federal law. Now, many of their elected officials are advocating policies that will turn the United States into a sanctuary nation. These policy proposals are not only costly, they send the wrong message in the midst of a border crisis. Democrats’ proposals will put taxpayers on the hook for what amounts to a giant “welcome” mat and a wide-open door on the border.

Republicans, contrary to what the media reports, have been willing to compromise, even offering relief and a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients last year in exchange for funding for a physical barrier on the border.

Sen. Chuck Schumer decided to shut the government down rather than negotiate.

The public is looking for responsible, reasonable solutions to our border crisis. They welcome bipartisan cooperation on a deeply complicated issue. It’s time for Democrats to come to the table now and help solve this problem rather than wait it out to use as a campaign issue in 2020.

Rep. Bob Gibbs, a Republican, represents Ohio’s 7th Congressional District. He is a member of the Congressional Border Security Caucus.