Top Dem Think Tank Warns Party: You’re Losing Immigration Messaging War to Trump

Faced with combating the Trump administration’s hardline immigration agenda in the arena of public opinion, Democrats have largely pointed to reports of horrific detention conditions, spiking in-custody deaths of undocumented immigrants, and President Donald Trump’s increasingly brazen attempts to undermine the legal immigration system, hoping to counter the White House’s border message by emphasizing that such policies and tactics don’t reflect America’s immigrant tradition.

But a new report from an influential liberal think tank, provided to The Daily Beast, posits that the party’s decision to cede the “rule of law” ground to Republicans creates “the false dichotomy of America as either a nation of immigrants or a nation of laws”—making the party and its candidates appear soft on enforcement, and potentially weakening future attempts for humanitarian-focused immigration reform.

In doing so, writes Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, supporters of humane immigration policy “have ceded powerful rhetorical ground to immigration restrictionists, who are happy to masquerade as the sole defenders of America as a nation of laws.”

Jawetz—a former immigration attorney and chief counsel on the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, differentiates “the rule of law” and Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric, calling the latter “an enforcement-heavy vision of social control that is generally used as a racially coded dog whistle.” For Democrats to achieve a fair and functional immigration system, they have to patch the immigration system’s fragmented legal framework, Jawetz writes—instead of “relying increasingly upon administrative discretion to save the system from itself.”

The white paper, titled “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System” and released by the Center for American Progress on Monday, comes as Trump has renewed demands that Congress reform the immigration system, which he has derided as riddled with “major loopholes.”

By Scott Bixby for DAILY BEAST
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