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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Harrop: Follow Obama’s lead on border

By Froma Harrop
Published: September 15, 2023, 6:01am

The president most effective at addressing our border crisis was a Democrat named Barack Obama.

He did two things:

No. 1: He championed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have legalized the status of many undocumented migrants already here but also required employers to check their new hires’ immigration status through an electronic database.

No. 2: He cranked up the deportation of undocumented migrants, mainly criminal offenders. By showing he meant business, Obama undoubtedly intended to reassure Americans that the proposed reform would not be just some new amnesty. It would start enforcing the law.

In doing so, Obama bravely endured the slings and arrows from advocates who bashed him as “deporter in chief.” Obama had guts.

The bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote. It would have gotten through the House with Republican votes, but Speaker John Boehner let it die. He was too chicken to allow a vote on a measure that most Republican members opposed.

On this issue, Donald Trump is a total blowhard.

His talk is tough. His spine is Jell-O.

Obama removed 60 percent more undocumented immigrants in his first term than Trump did. And the reform bill would have spent $8 billion on fencing at the southern border.

By the way, where is Trump’s wall?

It happens that several conservative states have passed laws requiring electronic verification of a job seeker’s right to employment. The E-Verify system is established and reliable.

Trump was asked whether he would do likewise on the national level. His response was: Oh, no, we can’t do that. “It’s a very tough thing to ask a farmer to go through,” Trump told Fox News in May 2019. They are “not equipped” to use E-Verify. Like farmers don’t have laptops.

As long as undocumented migrants can get jobs in this country, there’s no stopping their entry. Period.

The truth is this: Behind the baloney facade of demanding enforcement, Trump and many other Republicans really don’t want to stop the flow of cheap labor.

Trump himself has been an avid user of illegal workers — at Trump Tower, at his golf properties. His contractors are known to pick up groups of them at the sides of roads.

As for President Joe Biden, he’s being slammed for not taking a more muscular approach on the border, particularly the messed-up asylum system.

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The numbers seeking asylum grew under Trump as well, but they are rapidly expanding now. That is a problem for Biden.

Because they can stay in the U.S. in the six or more years it takes to have their cases heard, many economic migrants are using claims of asylum to speed up their entry.

Making matters worse, federal law lets asylum-seekers into the country but bars them from working.

It could take a year or more to get work authorization. And that’s why we’re seeing the shelters overflowing with refugees in New York, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

“How are asylum-seekers expected to pay rent and feed themselves and their families?” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg asks. “This amounts to state-enforced poverty and vagrancy.”

It’s insane to admit immigrants with no money and no right to legally earn it.

Adding to the craziness is that these are mostly hardworking people in places that need their labor.

Their predicament could be fixed with 10 words of English and a job.

Comprehensive immigration reform is still the answer. And if Joe Biden wants to be elected again, he has to aggressively push it. Talk to Obama about that.

Could we have an immigration system that’s orderly, that respects our laws and that meets their country’s labor needs?

Yes, we can.