Warren unveils major immigration plan

Fails to address underlying concerns of many Americans

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Elizabeth Warren unveiled a sweeping immigration plan that would reverse many of President Trump’s policies, but in tone and style it failed to address, let alone acknowledge, many of the underlying concerns of Americans.

In an article in Medium, under the headline “A Fair and Welcoming Immigration System,” Warren portrayed immigrants as “a vital source of American strength” and condemned Trump for advancing a “policy of cruelty and division that demonizes immigrants.”

The Washington Post said the plan puts Warren “firmly on the side of the liberal immigration debate.” The New York Times said Warren’s plan “includes an assertive push for liberal immigration priorities, like decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings.”

She also called for reducing immigration detention, eliminating private detention facilities, affirming asylum protections, overhauling the federal agencies in charge of border protection and immigration enforcement, upping the refugee cap to 125,000 her first year in office, and spending $1.5 billion to address forces displacing migrants from their homes and countries.

“America should welcome more legal immigration – done in the right way and consistent with our principles,” Warren said. “We should use targeted immigration as a tool to create jobs and businesses and grow our economy.”

The policy paper is worth a read, but you won’t find much in there addressing the uneasiness many Americans feel about rising levels of immigration. Charles Stein, in a Boston Globe op-ed, suggests Democratic candidates for president should develop immigration policies that blend compassion with pragmatism.

“They should craft a policy that recognizes that America is a country with a big heart but a finite appetite for letting people come here,” he says. “The policy should be based on an understanding that many Americans, not all of them racists, are uncomfortable with high levels of immigration, especially the kind of spikes we have witnessed in border crossings in the past few months.”

David Frum, in an earlier eye-opening piece in The Atlantic, examines immigration from a wide variety of angles and concludes that many people are right to be worried. He says immigration appears to be having a bigger impact on the country because Americans are not having lots of children.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“When natives have lots of children of their own, immigrants look like reinforcements,” he says. “When natives have few children, immigrants look like replacements.” Frum says it’s no wonder that a 2016 survey indicated nearly half of white working-class Americans agree with this statement: “Things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”

Frum’s biggest warning for the field of Democratic presidential candidates is that it’s not enough to just attack Trump. “Demagogues don’t rise by talking about irrelevant issues,” he says. “Demagogues rise by talking about issues that matter to people, and that more conventional leaders appear unwilling or unable to address: unemployment in the 1930s, crime in the 1960s, mass immigration now. Voters get to decide what the country’s problems are. Political elites have to devise solutions to those problems. If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.”