What the Dems in the House need to do on immigration

The dividing partisan issue today is immigration. Dem and Rep voters both want protection of pre-existing conditions. But they think very differently on immigration, in part due to Trump’s skillful exploitation of the issue to frame it as a law and order issue. The issue is very attractive to Trump because he can do much with executive discretion. Dems play into his hands with calls for elimination of ICE. The Dems have no coherent vision for immigration.

Note ABC’s exit polling: “On the issues, health care prevailed, cited as the country’s top challenge by 41%, vs. 23% for immigration, 22% for the economy and 10% for gun policy. It sharply split the vote: Health care voters went Democratic by 75-23 percent; immigration voters were precisely the opposite; economy voters voted Republican by almost 2-to-1, 63-34 percent.” The sharp party division obscures a messier reality: when law and order is removed from the immigration debate, then a moderate center emerges.

It seems foolhardy to sit back and allow the Reps to characterize the Dems without a fight. The House Dems can use hearings to engage the country in discussion that brings immigration as a topic back from being a law and order issue to one of economic prosperity and cultural assimilation. These are the two key themes for a Dem vision for immigration. They haven’t had a platform to articulate this until now.

They need to directly address cultural assimilation because that is an underlying cause of malaise in the U.S (even more in Europe) over immigration. On the whole, assimilation is working well with a key major exception: poorly educated Hispanics.

Riehan Salam’s book, “Melting Pot of Civil War,” focuses on failure of economic assimilation, the creation of a multi-generational underclass. I think he overdoes it but he still has a valid point. The Dems need to acknowledge that cultural and economic assimilation is a matter of concern, and that the American economy and way of life have a means to bring it about.

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