Sen. Dick Durbin: American Families Must ‘Accommodate the World’s Ambition’ to Be Part of America

National Immigration Forum

American families must “accommodate the world’s ambition to be part of the future of America,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told a pro-migration group on Thursday. 

“There has to be an orderly process here, a process that really accommodates the world’s ambition to be part of the future of America,” he said, although “we cannot open our doors to everyone who wants to come through tomorrow.”

Durbin leads the Democrats’ immigration policies, but he did not say how many millions of foreigners should be accommodated in the United States.

2017 report by Gallup said that 150 million people want to be accommodated in the United States. The number may be far higher — 37 million people from just Central America want accommodation in the United States, the Gallup report noted. 

But Durbin dismissed Americans’ rational worries about the financial and civic impact of diverse, mass migration into their stable and prosperous communities:

I think part of the resistance to immigration is primal. It’s a stranger. It’s a new and unfamiliar face. And the first reaction is “Am I all right? Am I going to be safe? Is this person a threat to me?” That’s part of the primal reaction against immigration.

In contrast, Durbin praised migrants, saying, “Many of them are in some respects even more ambitious and determined than we are in our lives, and they can make our lives better with their contribution.”

Durbin’s comments show how progressives think about Americans, migrants, and the United States as a “Nation of Immigrants” — instead of a homeland for Americans.

Durbin’s comments came during an interview by the head of the National Immigration Forum. The forum works with businesses to deliver cheap migrant labor to employers, such as dairies and Uber, while wrapping the supply of cheap labor in noble — and sincere — rhetoric.

This extra labor supply boosts employers, investors, and landlords — but it also nudges down Americans’ wages, nudges up their rents and housing costs, and packs their kids’ schools.

The Forum’s director, Ali Noorani, asked Durbin to describe what the phrase “Only in America” means to him. Durbin replied:

Only in America, Sister Norma [Pimentel] in Brownsville … only in America [are there] so many like them who genuinely care and are willing to stand up and fight for some of the poorest people on Earth. Struggling to come into this country to get what we all have, a piece of that American dream and opportunity.

This country is special. I would join [Colorado Sen.] Cory [Gardner] calling it the greatest, but it sounds like a boast. I think we are called on every generation to prove it. Prove it every day, prove it every year that you’re still the greatest. And we’re being tested now like we’ve not been tested in a long, long time.

I think those of us on the Democratic side, generally, have strong feelings on one side of immigration. But we need to open up a conversation with our friends on the Republican side because, like Cory, who stood with us during a critical moment here on a vote, there are Republicans willing to step up and stand up.

We have to be honest and thoughtful in our approach to immigration. I’ll just come out and tell you I think the three things we need to say before [we] can appeal to someone who’s undecided on this issue.

I believe in border security. In an age of terrorism, with the worst drug epidemic in the history of our country, I want to know who’s coming into this country and what they’re bringing.

Secondly, I don’t want to knowingly ever allow anyone dangerous to come into this country. And if you are undocumented and commit a serious crime, you’ve forfeited your right to stay, period.

And the third issue is, we cannot open our doors to everyone who wants to come through tomorrow. There has to be an orderly process here — a process that really accommodates the world’s ambition to be part of the future of America.

Durbin’s progressive perspective strongly emphasizes care and fairness for migrants. But that perspective leaves little room to talk about wages, rents, classrooms, opportunities, and fairness for Americans.

Conservatives’ sensitivity to other virtues — loyalty to fellow Americans, respect for the law, and sanctity for America’s homeland — allow them to balance their care for poor migrants with their care for their fellow Americans.

“Durbin, as usual, dodges the fundamental question of immigration policy,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies:

How many? He says “we cannot open our doors to everyone who wants to come through tomorrow” — does that mean everyone who wants to come must be let in *eventually*, just not tomorrow? The World Bank reports that 3.4 billion people live on less than $5.50 a day. If they don’t all get to come here, which ones does he propose to exclude? And what does he propose to do about those who try to get around it (but are not violent criminals)? Is he willing to deport *any* non-violent illegal aliens simply because they violated our immigration limits? …  immigration expansionists … favor unlimited immigration, but are too afraid to say so openly.

Krikorian also shut down Durbin’s portrayal of ordinary Americans as “primal,” saying:

By “primal” Durbin means to demean those who are uncomfortable with the current very high level of immigration and dismiss their concerns as unthinking and atavistic … the public’s impatience with such tactics is a big part of the reason Trump was elected. If Durbin and the rest of the political class had been willing to even partly acknowledge the public’s “primal” concerns, they wouldn’t have forfeited so much of their legitimacy and paved the way for a populist reaction. 

In contrast, business groups’ focus on economic growth ensures much overlap with Durbin’s moral framework. For example, on November 6, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) suggested Durbin should drop his immigration-boosting RELIEF Act, and instead endorse Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) bill.

The RELIEF Act would boost annual immigration from one million a year up to 2.6 million a year for three years and then set it at 1.5 million per year. So Durbin’s RELIEF Act would import 18 million people over the next ten years. That huge inflow amounts to roughly one million immigrants for every two young Americans who turn 18 during the decade. This huge inflow would transfer trillions of dollars in value from wage-earners to coastal investors and landowners.

Lee’s bill provides fast-track green cards and citizenship to 300,000 Indian visa workers who have already taken jobs from Americans, and it also rewards more Indians who will take jobs from Americans. But it does not increase the immigration of Democrat-leaning voters, so GOP legislators favor Lee’s bill. Tillis said:

I hope that Sen. Durbin and others who recognize that the high-skilled workers in this country, we do have a shortage, we do need to fix a number of problems, but I don’t think it can be fixed with the [Durbin] RELIEF Act. I encourage Sen. Durbin, to work with Sen. Lee, and the 34 other Senate members who are working on a bipartisan basis to address this, to work together so that we can bring [Lee’s] Fairness for High-Skill Immigrants Act to the floor and send it to the House for consideration.

In his comments at the Forum, Durbin repeatedly demonstrated his sincere and deep emotional and ideological support for mass migration. For example, he told a progressive’s creation story:

So yesterday on the floor of the Senate, I told my 118th story of a [DACA] dreamer. This is a dreamer named Ernesto [ph], who is in Dodge City, Kansas. Brought here as a little boy, unable to speak or read English, he persevered, undocumented, and got a master’s degree from Wichita State University, and now he’s the assistant city manager of Dodge City, Kansas, this DACA recipient.

There’s a story that kind of demonstrates “Don’t be afraid of the primal level of these new people, they’re just like us.” And many of them are in some respects even more ambitious and determined than we are in our lives, and they can make our lives better with their contribution. So we have to deal with the primal issue and the political issue and do what I think in human terms, and it works.

Durbin told a story about a progressive version of sin:

I believe this president is poisoned the well. I believe that when he calculates what it takes to appeal to his base, there is no room for accommodation on immigration.

President [Barack] Obama told me that in the meeting he had with the President-elect Donald Trump in the White House in December [2016] before the oath of office was administered [that] he went an extra hour with President-elect Trump all about dreamers and DACA, telling him, “Please get to know these young people, don’t make the mistake of going after them; people across America are embracing them now because of what they’re going through.” And that President Obama felt at the time that he was getting through to President Trump.

And if you listen to the rhetoric of President Trump after the first year in office, it sounded that way, he was saying positive things about these young people and how important they are to our future.

But then in September of 2017 he abolished DACA. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear this case. Eight-hundred-thousand lives hanging in the balance because he decided to abolish this program. I think it’s built into his political calculation. I can’t imagine that he believes he can walk away from this base on this issue.

I’m just pray that I’m wrong.

Durbin also told a touching story about his own conversion into immigration advocacy:

Behind my desk in the Capitol building is my mother’s naturalization certificate. Before she passed away, I asked her if she knew where it was. Though she was not in the greatest health, she jumped right up and went running in and came out with a brown envelope, a big brown envelope, and I opened it up and pulled out her naturalization certificate, and this little piece of paper fluttered to the floor, and I picked it up, and I said, “What’s this mom?”

She says, “That’s my receipt for paying the filing fee of $2.50 when I became a citizen.”

I said, “Why did you keep this?”

“If the government ever challenges me. I can prove that I paid the $2.50.”

That was my mom. But that [certificate] sits behind my desk with the little receipt in the corner of it, as a reminder of who I am and how lucky I am to be here because of my immigrant grandparents who had the courage to leave everything behind, come to a place where they didn’t even speak the language in the hopes that future generations in their family would have a better life. So that’s how I got started.

Durbin’s faith in immigration is being tested by the S.386 debate, where migrants from India are demanding nearly all of the Employer-Based (EB) green cards for the next ten years. That Indian-first demand would strip green cards from many other would-be immigrants and fuel workplace discrimination against Americans.

But conservatives have their own touching stories, which highlight their balanced moral perspective on migration.

One victim of the H-1B outsourcing trend was Donna B. She is now retired to a small town in Arizona and earns so little money that she is not required to pay off the $50,000 in student loans she still owes from her software education in 1989.

Divorced and with five children, “I was 36 years old when I started [in 1989],” she told Breitbart News. After her first job in Connecticut, she moved to Arizona by 1993, where she met her first Indian H-1B workers. “They did not mix with any of us and could not speak English,” she said.

In 2002, “I had my first layoff, and I could not find a job anywhere for four years,” she said. She applied for a job in Boston to repeat the same work she had done in Arizona, but “I could never get an interview, I was being stalled, and nothing happened.” She eventually landed a job at Caremark but was laid off in 2010 after the company merged with CVS. “The next year, they brought in Indians to do exactly what I had been doing,” she said.

“I never found a job after that. … I applied for tons of jobs, tons. … I never got a response except ‘thank you for applying.’”

Many of the job interviews were conducted with Indians from the outsourcing companies, each of which has an economic incentive to fill jobs with cheap Indian H-1Bs, not Americans, she said. “I’ve gotten calls, and I’ve gotten emails from Indians [when applying for jobs]. … It just goes nowhere,” she said.

“Last year, I retired, so my retirement is peanuts,” she said. “I live in a tiny town called Arizona City, which doesn’t have mail service.”

In October, Breitbart News reported:

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) has introduced legislation — known as S.2059 — to give victims of illegal alien crime the right to sue sanctuary jurisdictions for protecting criminal illegal aliens, a bill [Mary Ann] Mendoza unequivocally said she supports.

Mendoza mentioned the case of 23-year-old Aaron Hampton who was allegedly murdered by an illegal alien who had been shielded from deportation by former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“In November 2018, Aaron Hampton was shot more than 25 times by a repeat offender criminal illegal alien in Springfield, Missouri,” Mendoza described. “ICE had a detainer on Luis Perez and requested Middlesex County, New Jersey to hold him before deportation proceedings following his arrest for felony crimes that included assault, aggravated assault, and child abuse.”

“Had the ICE detainer been honored, as every detainer should be, Aaron Hampton would be alive today,” Mendoza said. Make no mistake, Luis Perez is a repeat offender criminal illegal alien from Mexico who has no right to live in our country.”

Trump’s officials are also searching for balance.

“The president has made no secret of the fact that he believes immigration, first and foremost, is set up to work for America — that means economically and for the people here,” Trump’s citizenship chief Ken Cuccinelli told reporters at an October 16 press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

“There is a lot of pressure in various sectors to utilize more immigrant labor for employment, whether it is for high-tech or low-tech in the economy … [but the president] has also made clear that is is important to protect ordinary American workers and to not displace them,” said Cuccinelli, who runs the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

Finding the right balance between helping American workers and American investors is a constant political dilemma, Cuccinelli said:

Is there some perfect [balanced] target point in every industry? Maybe there is, but we’re never going to be able to know it. So which side do you err on? And he has repeatedly emphasized how important it is to protect U.S. workers. Now’s he been clear with me, as well, and you all have heard him say it: he wants to see economic growth and dynamism. And that means, you know, growing companies needing to fill slots. So we’re just in a constant battle to balance those things.

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