Vice President Kamala Harris had strong words for the migrants heading for the US border on her first trip as Vice President to Guatemala. “Don’t come,” Harris said twice.talking to journalists. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should happen, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration.
His words were a rebuke to the masses of people flocking to the southern border since Joe Biden won the presidency, some of whom have explicit referenced Biden’s language on immigration as the impetus for their journey north. But the idea that America should have a national border – a border that it controls and secures – and that America is entitled to a formal legal process by which it grants citizenship to potential immigrants, was not a point obvious to everyone.
“It’s disappointing to see” tweeted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), standard-bearer of the progressive left. “First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival. Second, the United States has spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. . “
MP Ocasio-Cortez’s disappointment that Vice President Harris was discouraging illegal immigration seemed to suggest that the only position she would welcome would be one in which every immigrant is welcomed indiscriminately. In publicly voicing his dissent, Ocasio-Cortez telegraphed to the Biden administration in no uncertain terms that any legal restrictions on immigration would meet fierce opposition from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. She wasn’t the only one.
“We must not abandon our values and our rights to white far-right nationalists”, tweeted Another Squad member, Congressman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) atop a video of Harris’ speech.
This view that discouraging illegal immigration is a white nationalist value is actually new to progressives. “Open the borders? Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders (D-VT) scoffed in an interview with Ezra Klein for Vox as recently as 2015. “It’s a proposal from the Koch brothers.”
“That would make a lot of the world’s poor richer, wouldn’t it? Klein pressed.
“It would make everyone poorer in America,” Sanders replied. “You are removing the concept of nation state, and I don’t think there is a single country in the world that believes in it. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or the United Kingdom or Denmark or any other country, I think you have an obligation to do whatever we can to help the poor. “
It was a right-wing proposition to have unbridled immigration, insisted Sanders just six years ago. “What the right-wing people in this country would like is a policy of open borders,” Sanders said. “Bring in all kinds of people, work for $ 2-3 an hour, that would be good for them. I don’t believe it.”
Sanders was expressing what many Americans, both white and colored, had already understood. A large majority of African Americans and Hispanics said they would vote for a presidential candidate who has spoken out in favor of strengthening our border security to reduce illegal immigration, according to a 2019 Harvard-Harris poll. This shouldn’t be surprising; illegal immigration has been linked to a 20% to 60% drop in the wages of the black working class. Another recent study suggested that immigration was responsible for a third of the decline in black employment rates over the past 40 years. “Black Americans are more favorable to limiting immigration than any other bloc in the Democratic coalition. And Hispanics actually tend to be Following concerned about illegal immigration than whites or blacks, ”reports sociologist Musa al Gharbi.
You wouldn’t know this by listening to politicians and influencers in the Democratic Party – and not just the Progressive wing; When the Democratic candidates running for the 2020 presidential nomination were asked whether they would decriminalize illegal border crossing, almost all said yes.
Why? How did progressive leaders go from understanding that mass immigration is a de facto tax on the poor – just six years ago – to presenting it as the only morally defensible, the only non-racist position?
It has to do with the Democrats’ new base. In a new paper, French economist Thomas Piketty and others have detailed a colossal shift underway in Western democracies in terms of population in the ranks of the left. While in the 1960s the Democratic Party and other liberal-leaning political parties were populated by members of the working class, over the past 60 years they have become the bastion of high education – a Brahmin left whose concerns and demands are increasingly on the Democrats’ agenda.
This is counterintuitive, write Picketty et al., Given soaring inequality in the developed world. “Given this recent development, one would have expected to observe a growing political demand for redistribution and the return of class politics (based on income or wealth),” write the economists. “Instead, Western democracies seem to have turned to new forms of identity conflict in recent decades, embodied by the growing importance of environmental issues and the growing prosperity of authoritarian anti-establishment movements.”
A class-based political spectrum has been replaced by what Picketty et al. call it a “multi-elite party system”. If we once had a party representing the rich and a party representing the workers, today we have a party representing the rich and a party representing the highly educated and no party representing the working class. In 2020, Biden won 84 of the 100 counties with the highest percentage of college graduates. But the ranks of the rich are also increasingly divided: in 2020, Wall Street donors gave more money to Biden than to Trump.
Needless to say, they didn’t because they are keen on economic redistribution.
The truth is that the Brahmin left does not want redistribution; he wants cultural wars over identity. He wants environmentalism, open borders and the cancellation of student loans.
The opening of borders was once the calling card of the libertarian right. Now it’s a humanitarian heartfelt cry that flatters the vanity of highly educated liberals while working-class Americans of all races carry the burden – and then are vilified as racists for fear of losing their jobs because of an influx of labor.
“The history of citizenship in the United States is deeply linked to the history of racism”, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in 2019. “It has been used as the legal authority for racism for most of the history of the United States.”
She understood it exactly the other way around: protections against racism, like all civil rights, depend on a national border and on the pact that a sovereign citizen concludes with his own government. A left that has invested in the working class would not have forgotten this, would not have had the luxury of defaming people who fear losing their jobs – people of all races – as racists. But instead of listening to the concerns of our multiracial working class, Democrats are listening to the Squad, the patron saints of the Brahmin left.
Batya Ungar-Sargon is Newsweek’s associate opinion editor.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.