‘Catch And Release’: Losing The Rhetorical War On Immigration

What worries me about the politics of immigration is that the notion that the choices are between completely ‘open borders’ and Trump’s brutality. Dan Nexon puts it very clearly:

The root of the problem isn’t the phrase ‘open borders’, it’s ‘catch and release’, which was the previous policy (certainly pre-Obama). The phrase catch and release taps into previous right-wing propaganda in which lenient liberal judges would free dangerous criminals and then said criminals would murder your family. (Of course, the overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants just want to work crappy jobs, and, in some cases, not get murdered themselves which would happen if they were to stay in their countries of origin).

Once treating crossing the border without authorization became a ‘serious problem’ of national security (BOOGA! BOOGA!), as opposed to a misdemeanor, it closed off a lot of rhetorical options. Because the immigration that could lead to the looming nightmare of taco trucks on every corner isn’t a national security threat. It’s not even really a ‘cultural threat’ (immigrants don’t really want to live in places where people hate them for being different anymore than the native-born do).

In other words, once we’re fighting over ‘open borders’, we’ve already lost the rhetorical war. The issue is that the ‘catch and release’ policy, while not ideal, isn’t a security threat. That’s the ground on which we have to fight.

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