Rich Lowry: Immigration restriction is not hate

(Rogelio V. Solis | AP) A man is taken into custody as U.S. immigration officials raided the Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees.

President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda has always been considered exclusionary and prejudiced by progressives; now they consider it tainted by mass murder.

The El Paso massacre, carried out by a white nationalist waging a lunatic war against Hispanic immigration, is being used as a bludgeon against Trump and immigration restriction more broadly.

After years spent trying to rule immigration restriction out of bounds, the left is doubling down on ruling immigration restriction out of bounds.

It can't be that the only reason for protecting the border, rejecting bogus asylum-seekers, reorienting the legal immigration system toward skills rather than family unification and reducing overall numbers is rank hatred bordering on homicidal malice.

It can't be that the only choice is between extremely latitudinarian policies that allow asylum-seekers into the country, often never to be seen again, or mass murder.

It can't be that the only respectable position on immigration, safe for the general public, is whatever the Democrats' center of gravity on the issue is at any given time (always in flux and always moving left).

First, let's stipulate that Trump's words on immigration often are crude and inflammatory. Yet nothing he's ever said could possibly justify indiscriminately shooting people. Trump is not a terrorist, a supporter of terrorism or an enabler of terrorism.

The El Paso shooter's apparent manifesto overlaps with some of Trump's rhetoric, but what defines the document is its apocalyptic argument that slaughter is the way "to reclaim" the country.

The gulf between that view and Trump’s — that Congress should build a wall and change some highly technical asylum rules — is vast. It is the difference between justifying criminality and advocating legislation, between quitting on America and calling for policies to solve one of its problems.

Much is made of Trump's use of the word "invasion," which also features in the manifesto. This is a loaded term best avoided. It speaks to a hostile intent among immigrants who, by and large, come here to improve their lives.

But, again, the impulse to gun down these supposed invaders shopping at Walmart and the impulse to exclude them from entry, or quickly and safely return them home once here, don't exist in the same moral universe.

For all that the language police profess to care deeply about words, they aren't very careful about rendering Trump's. No one notes that in his Florida rally where a rallygoer notoriously yelled "shoot them" and Trump shook his head, smiled and said "only in the Panhandle," the president was in the midst of saying of border agents, "Don't forget, we don't let them, and we can't let them, use weapons."

The discrediting of views that show up in the manifesto only works one way. The shooter expresses a fear of automation and support for the universal basic income. Should we hold that against Andrew Yang? The shooter fears we're on the verge of an environmental disaster. Should Jay Inslee tone it down?

When a member of antifa was shot dead by police while attacking an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Washington state, Democrats weren't made to answer for their harsh attacks on immigration enforcement.

It's even a count against Trump that the shooter, too, says that Democrats favor "open borders." If it's going to be unacceptable to use the term "open borders" of a party that is getting closer and closer to embracing a policy of open borders, we might as well shut down the immigration debate now.

Which is, of course, part of the point. What much of the left won't acknowledge is that restrictionists have a sincere belief that secure borders and a reformed legal immigration system would be better for our laws, our economy and our cultural cohesion.

If Trump is a flawed tribune for this point of view, he's not culpable of murder, either. The charge that he somehow is is yet another symptom of our rapidly degrading public debate rather than a call to elevate it.

Rich Lowry Courtesy photo

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. comments.lowry@nationalreview.com