Democrats back anti-immigration policies in attempt to secure funding for U.S. imperialism

Photo: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Credit: Flickr/Gregory Hauenstein (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED)

At the beginning of this month, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that contained some of the most stringent anti-immigration border restrictions Congress has considered in decades. The bill would have provided over $20 billion dedicated to border security and immigration enforcement agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Control and ICE. It would have created a border shutdown measure, expanded immigrant detention facilities, and made it more difficult for migrants to apply for asylum. Republican senators blocked the bill because they argued that it did not go far enough, but what is more disturbing is the eagerness of President Biden and Democrats to negotiate and agree to those staunchly anti-immigrant policies. 

Since Democrats had branded themselves as the “pro-immigrant” party, especially during Biden’s presidential run against Trump in 2020, their willingness to agree and endorse this border bill reflected a right-wing turn that shocked and confused pro-immigrant Democrats and progressives. But despite any professed outward ideological differences, this turn renewed Republicans’ and Democrats’ shared commitment to at least a couple of things: U.S.-funded wars abroad and funneling taxpayer money into profit for weapons manufacturers. 

Republicans and Democrats united in desire for military spending

For an explanation for this right-wing shift, we need not look any further than the strong desire of Biden and Democrats to fuel U.S. imperialist projects overseas, which was the original focus and other component of the blocked bill. Biden and Democratic leaders like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lambasted Republicans for not only for turning down their compromise on immigration, but also preventing Congress from sending roughly $80 billion of military support to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. It is telling that Democrats are perfectly willing to sacrifice their professed dedication to immigrants in order to perpetuate a genocide in Palestine, a proxy war against Russia, and military aggression against China.

Ultimately, Biden and the Democrats got what they wanted a week later when Schumer resorted to “Plan B” for funding imperialism, and the Senate passed a standalone foreign military plan to spend an astounding total of $95 billion on Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Biden and Schumer exhorted senators to approve the bill and celebrated its passage as crucial to protecting U.S. “national security” and “Western democracy” globally. The vote passed by a wide margin, which reflects the reality that, at the end of the day, both Democrats and Republicans march in lockstep when it comes to U.S. military expansionism.

Some political commentators surmised that Democrats negotiated and agreed to the hardline border deal as a shrewd political maneuver to paint Republicans as unreasonable hypocrites when they rejected their own immigration demands. But this theory fails to explain Biden’s drive to continue enacting the border measures from the failed bill even after Senate approval of the foreign military spending that he and Democrats championed. Biden is now considering resorting to his executive action powers to crack down on the border and prevent people entering the country from claiming asylum. This plan disturbingly resembles the action that Trump tried to take in 2018, which was criticized by Democrats back then and ultimately blocked by the federal courts. 

With the impending presidential election this year, Biden is setting himself up to face off against Trump and appeal to voters by showing that he can be just as tough on immigration and the border. Democrat mayors and governors across the country, including those in New York, Illinois, and Colorado, are now also part of the call from within Biden’s party, pressuring him to act on immigration. Instead of standing in contrast to Trump’s racist xenophobia as he and Democrats had promised, they have made a drastic right-wing about-face and are now even considering recycling Trump’s unlawful measures.

Money for wars, but can’t feed the poor

Working class Americans should see through the political theater going on in the U.S. government and understand that funneling the originally proposed $118 billion of their tax dollars to anti-immigrant measures domestically and deadly wars abroad are both against their interests and deserve to be completely rejected. Although Democrats and Republicans will bicker and clash over the details of their agenda, their dealings reflect mutual desires to channel resources into border control and the military industrial complex. Neither of these systems create anything productive and constructive to society and only perpetuate violence, destruction, and suffering. 

It is disgraceful that the U.S. government has unfathomable amounts of money to dedicate to these priorities instead of supporting the people who live in this country — citizen and noncitizen alike — by funding the housing, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and social services that everyone needs to survive. 

This is the latest example showing that the working class cannot trust and rely on the Democratic Party to fight for our interests. Though the original border security bill failed to pass, the Democrats’ willingness to back it is just the latest in a pattern of throwing the most marginalized under the bus for political gain, whether it’s migrants, women, or trans people. This shows the imperative of building an independent people’s movement to protect our fundamental rights — because when it comes to keeping the engines of the American empire and war machine running, everything is on the table for negotiation with the Democrats.

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