Crashing the Border
New Freedom Center booklet unveils the Left’s manufactured crisis.
[Order your Freedom Center booklet, Crashing the Border: HERE.]
Editors' note: A pivotal booklet published this week by the David Horowitz Freedom Center reveals the true stakes in the ongoing crisis engulfing America’s southern border. In “Crashing the Border: The Left’s Manufactured Crisis,” DiscovertheNetworks.org editor John Perazzo examines the deliberate strategy employed by Democratic politicians and leftist activists to stress and overwhelm our border security apparatus to its breaking point. The resulting crisis will then be used as a pretext to enact policies, such as amnesty, that will radically transform America’s political landscape and illegally import millions of future Democratic voters.
“Over the years, Americans had become so accustomed to this problem and so desensitized by all the banal explanations of its causes…that they tended to accept the tsunami of illegal migration as part of the inevitable and inexorable movement of populations away from pain and toward promise. But this was a fiction,” writes author Perazzo. “In fact, the problem was the product of a concerted effort by which Democratic legislators and their ideological allies in the “immigrant rights” movement sought to overwhelm and undermine America’s bordersecurity and immigration system by importing millions of people who could be expected to eventually become reliable Democrat voters for decades to come.”
As Perazzo’s careful research reveals, this strategy has a name and a long pedigree among leftist protest movements. “The Cloward-Piven Strategy”—named for former Columbia University sociologists and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) leaders Richard Cloward and his wife, Frances Fox Piven—posits that activists can effect radical change by “crashing the system.” Their theory—which echoes their ideological ally and intellectual godfather Saul Alinsky—encourages the orchestration of various crises designed to push society into economic turmoil and panic. Confronted by an escalating crisis, Cloward and Piven believed, the masses could more easily be led to accept explicitly socialist government interventions.
There is little doubt that the massive stream of humanity currently breaching our southern border is swiftly approaching a breaking point. In the wake of Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, the influx of unvetted refugees from that nation who bring with them the potential threat of Islamic terrorism has only compounded the growing catastrophe. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has amplified the crisis by weakening and undoing Trump-era reforms that helped to stem the tide of illegal immigration.
“Biden and his party have purposefully and aggressively sought to promote chaos along America’s southern border—chaos supplemented by the effects of legislation and executive actions crafted to permanently tilt the political advantage toward the Democratic Party,” Perazzo explains.
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Crashing the Border
Democrat leftists refuse to use the word “crisis” to describe the situation at our Southern border, except, of course, when it comes to what they call the “concentration camps” where the children of illegal immigrants are held while they await asylum hearings. But the crisis there is real, a profound threat to America’s national security created by these “progressive” Democrats themselves.
In a May 30, 2019 phone briefing with members of the press, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney gave a sense of the magnitude of the problem:
“Over the past 21 days, an average of over 4,500 people [per day] have crossed our border illegally or arrived at ports of entry without documents. In May of 2017, that number was less than 700 a day. The month of May  is on pace to be the highest month in crossings in over 12 years.”
“U.S. immigration authorities now have over 80,000 people in custody, a record level that is beyond sustainable capacity with current resources.”
“At any given moment, up to 100,000 migrants are transiting Mexico on their way to the U.S. border.”
At least 31,000 of the illegal border-crossers who were apprehended between 2016 and 2019 had been previously arrested, either in their respective homelands or in the U.S., for offenses like assault, battery, domestic violence, burglary, robbery, larceny, driving under the influence, homicide, sexual assault, drug or weapons trafficking, and illegal entry or re-entry into the United States. Moreover, in 2018, U.S. Border Patrol agents seized nearly 480,000 pounds of illicit drugs—most notably marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl—in the open desert regions of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The dimensions of the immigration crisis the Democrats helped create, although they now deny that it exists, are daunting. Tens of thousands of Central Americans simply walk into the U.S. every month, as though American immigration laws did not even exist, and then they attempt to claim asylum—the granting of which requires evidence that they would face persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or social-group membership if they were to return to their country of origin. American asylum courts are paralyzed by this human volume, and most of these illegals are quickly released into the U.S. interior. They are told that they should return to have their asylum cases formally adjudicated on some date in the distant future, but neither they nor immigration officials believe that this will ever happen.
We have become so accustomed to this problem and so desensitized by all the banal explanations of its causes—reigns of terror by gangs and economic chaos in the immigrants’ home countries, widespread domestic violence and political corruption, etc.—that we tend to accept this tsunami of illegal immigration as a fact of modern life, part of the inevitable and inexorable movement of populations away from poverty and toward promise.
But this is a fiction. In fact, this problem is the product of a concerted effort by which Democratic legislators and their ideological allies have sought to overwhelm and undermine the nation’s border-security and immigration system by importing millions of people who, along with their children and grandchildren, will become reliable Democrat voters for decades to come. The aim, in a nutshell, is to sow and nurture the seeds of a crisis that can be used, in turn, as a pretext for enacting policies designed to transform America’s political landscape.
This devious political tactic actually has a long pedigree as well as a name—“The Cloward-Piven Strategy”—that comes from its authors, former Columbia University sociologists Richard Cloward and his wife, Frances Fox Piven. Both were longtime Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) leaders who in the mid-1960s produced influential sociology treatises on how to effect radical change by “crashing the system.”
Cloward and Piven were ideological allies of the famed godfather of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, who also urged activists to orchestrate various crises designed to push society into economic turmoil and panic, which in turn would lead the masses to accept bigger and more explicitly socialistic government interventions. “Radicals precipitate the social crisis by action—by using power,” wrote Alinsky.
Starting in the Sixties, the Cloward-Piven “strategy” was employed by radicals over the next few decades to “crash” several areas of American social life—notably welfare “rights,” the electoral system, and ultimately home mortgages—in a way that provided a blueprint for “progressives’” efforts to crash the immigration system today.
Crashing the Welfare System
To test out their strategy of orchestrated crisis—a strategy which today can be seen impacting the immigration debate—Cloward and Piven first focused on the U.S. welfare system, urging its beneficiaries to “overload” the system in a way that would bankrupt it. This, they reasoned, would produce a crisis that would necessitate the system’s replacement with something structurally different—i.e., “legislation for a guaranteed annual income” for all people, whether or not they were employed.
Cloward and Piven laid out the details of their plan in an article titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” which appeared in the May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation. The authors claimed that political leaders—in collaboration with their rich and powerful supporters—were trying to appease poor people with welfare benefits that were, on the one hand, far too meager to ever lift them into prosperity, but on the other hand, just substantial enough to prevent the recipients from rebelling against their capitalist exploiters and thereby jeopardizing their handouts.
In their article, Cloward and Piven proposed a “massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls” by means of a highly coordinated “educational campaign,” and “to threaten legal action” if “satisfaction”—in the form of an enormous expansion of the nation’s welfare rolls—“is not given.” The authors were not troubled by the fact that their proposals, if enacted, had the potential to plunge city after city into bankruptcy. When they noted, for instance, that New York City was already “facing desperate revenue shortages”—thanks in part to the fact that “welfare expenditures [were] already second only to those for public education”—they nonetheless exhorted the poor to demand entitlements that would “multiply these expenditures tenfold or more.”
To lead this movement to systematically overload the welfare system, Cloward and Piven selected a militant black organizer named George Alvin Wiley, who in 1967 founded the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), an umbrella group for more than 500 chapters that would spring up across the United States over the next two years. Throughout the late Sixties, Wiley’s NWRO foot soldiers burst into welfare offices nationwide, where they loudly—and sometimes violently—issued their uncompromising demands for federal cash. Generating fear through “a climate of militancy” was all part of the plan. As Richard Cloward once put it, poor people would never be able to advance economically until “the rest of society is afraid of them.”
The NWRO and its supporters extracted many of billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments across the U.S., causing the number of households on the public dole to increase from 4.3 million to 10.8 million between 1965 and 1974—even though the American economy was generally thriving at that time. A case in point was New York City, whose welfare rolls grew from approximately 150,000 to 1.5 million between 1960 and 1970. “By the early 1970s, one person was on the welfare rolls in New York City for every two working in the city’s private economy,” wrote Manhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern. And in 1975 the city was forced to declare bankruptcy, to the delight of Cloward and Piven.
Crashing the Electoral System
Following the Welfare Rights Movement of the 1960s and ’70s, Cloward and Piven turned their gunsights on the nation’s electoral system and launched a new “Voting Rights Movement” in 1982. This movement derided popular elections as charades whose real purpose was to engage the average person in meaningless “voter activity” that would give him a false sense of participation in the American political process—much like the welfare system had allegedly been designed to give poor people a false sense of protection from economic calamity.
Like their predecessors in the Welfare Rights Movement, the new voting-rights crusaders whom Cloward and Piven inspired viewed the Democratic Party as a place they could make receptive to their aims, and thus as the party with which they should ally themselves. In a December 1982 article titled “A Movement Strategy to Transform the Democratic Party,” Cloward and Piven called for activists to flood America’s voter-registration rolls and polling places with countless millions of new voters, all belligerently demanding their right to participate in the electoral process. The authors knew that any effort to suddenly and swiftly add massive numbers of new names to the voter rolls would inevitably result in the appearance of many names that were either invalid or difficult to verify.
The most infamous exponent of Cloward and Piven’s flood-the-voter-rolls strategy was the community organization ACORN, which in the early to mid-2000s was implicated in numerous schemes involving the falsification and destruction of registration forms, the forging of signatures, the registration of dead or non-existent people, and the registration of convicted felons in states where they were legally ineligible to vote. In ACORN’s fraud-ridden 2008 voter-registration drives, some 400,000 bogus registrations had to be thrown out. On the eve of election day, ACORN was under investigation for voter-registration fraud in at least 13 states.
Crashing the Mortgage-Lending Industry
While Cloward and Piven envisioned their “strategy” as being launched by street radicals, the housing-market crisis of 2008, likewise caused by a system overload—in this case the overload of the mortgage industry with bad loans to underqualified borrowers—featured radical Democrats inside government now playing the role that “activists” had played in the crises of the ’60s and ’70s.
The roots of the 2008 crisis can be traced back to 1977, when progressive Democrats in Congress—seeking to help low-income nonwhites raise their lagging rates of homeownership—passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) with near unanimity. Signed into law by Democrat President Jimmy Carter, this federal statute required banks to make special efforts to lend money to minority borrowers—particularly mortgagors—of meager to modest means.
The CRA was founded upon a planted axiom with far-reaching implications—that government intervention is necessary to counteract the fundamentally racist and inequitable nature of American society generally, and of the free market specifically. The profound implications of that premise began to hit critical mass in the early 1990s, when studies showing disparate mortgage-loan approval rates for blacks and whites made sensational headlines in the media. In 1992, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released the results of
a seminal study, commonly known as the Boston Fed Study, which found that when whites and blacks with equivalent incomes applied for mortgages, the black applicants were denied at significantly higher rates. In reaction to the study, Attorney General Janet Reno warned in 1994 that “no bank” would be “immune” to an aggressive Justice Department campaign to punish discrimination in lending practices.
Though the conclusions of the Boston Fed Study were thoroughly discredited by various authoritative sources—including the Federal Reserve itself—in the months and years that followed, leftists in Congress and in the Clinton administration were determined to transform the CRA from an outreach effort into a strict quota system. Under this arrangement, if a bank failed to meet its quota for loans to low-income minorities, it ran a high risk of failing to earn a “satisfactory” CRA rating from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Such a failure, in turn, could derail the bank’s efforts to open a new branch, relocate a home office, make an acquisition, or merge with another financial institution. From a practical standpoint, then, banks had no recourse other than to drastically lower their standards on down-payments and underwriting, and to approve many loans even to borrowers with weak credit credentials.
In 1993, the Clinton Administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), backed by “progressives” in Congress, began bringing legal actions against mortgage bankers who had turned down a higher percentage of minority applicants than white applicants, regardless of their reasons for doing so. HUD also pressured the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest sources of housing finance in the United States, to earmark a rising number of their own loans for low-income borrowers.
The soon-to-be-infamous radical group ACORN, meanwhile, acting in coordination with its Democrat Party allies in Congress, aggressively pushed this same Clinton/Democrat agenda. In a 1991 protest against efforts to scale back the CRA, for instance, ACORN activists forcibly occupied the House Banking Committee room. In 1995, ACORN was the driving force behind a regulatory revision that greatly expanded the CRA. And ACORN used its subsidiary, ACORN Housing, to aggressively promote subprime loans for low-income minority borrowers; these loans were characterized by higher interest rates in order to compensate lenders for the high credit risk they were incurring.
Over time, the landscape of the mortgage-lending industry was completely transformed. Subprime loans, as well as other types of nontraditional loans (such as zero-down payment loans), became ever more prevalent. The situation was exacerbated further by the fact that many banks securitized the risky loans—i.e., bundled them together and sold them to third-party investors. From 2000 to 2005, private securitization of home and commercial mortgages grew tenfold; many of these securitized loans were subprime mortgages. The result was a full-blown financial crisis, precipitated by radicals in the Democratic Party and its ACORN allies, that was characterized by countless home foreclosures, particularly among minority owners who had been lured into buying homes they could not afford, and high unemployment rates. “It was ultimately the skyrocketing rates of mortgage delinquencies and defaults,” writes Hoover Institution Fellow Thomas Sowell, “that were like heavy rain in the mountains that caused the flooding downstream.... Government was not passively inefficient. It was actively zealous in promoting risky mortgage lending practices.”
Targeting the U.S. Immigration System
When the Cloward-Piven Strategy was originally applied to welfare rights in the 1960s and ’70s, its principal architects were a pair of radical academic outsiders and their socialist comrades in the community organization ACORN—all of them seeking to remake a portion of American society in a Marxist image. When the Strategy was subsequently applied to the Voting Rights Movement in the 1980s and ’90s, these same academic outsiders and their ACORN-affiliated allies again led the way, though this time their efforts were supplemented in a major way by the Democrats in Congress. In the home mortgage crisis of the 1990s, the leading actors were figures inside government, while activist radicals provided support from without.
So it is today, as the Biden administration has charged out of the starting gate and chosen the Cloward-Piven Strategy as its preferred means of fulfilling the new president's pledge to "fundamentally transform the country.” This time its principal architects are immensely powerful Democratic Members of Congress who seek to achieve radical social change and entrench their own power for generations to come by plunging America’s border-security bureaucracy into a crisis that will set the stage for the passage of an amnesty or “path-to-citizenship” measure that would create a massive bloc of new Democrat voters virtually overnight. The efforts of these Congressional Democrats, moreover, are supplemented by leftwing activist judges and radical immigrant-rights groups.
Since the fall of 2018, America’s southern border has been increasingly overrun by people crossing into the United States in numbers that dwarf even those that were seen during the Obama years. For the most part, these people have not presented themselves to American authorities at any of the 330 official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, where they could have accessed food, water, and medical care if necessary. Instead they have chosen to breach the border at locations somewhere between those ports of entry, in the midst of an arid desert, where, as soon as they have planted their feet firmly on American soil, they have actively sought out U.S. border authorities, in hopes of getting taken into custody.
Why? Because if they were to apply for asylum from outside the U.S. or at a port of entry, their chances of success would be small, since their cases are based, for the most part, not on the historic reasons for granting asylum—political protection from totalitarianism—but rather as part of a quest for jobs and “a better life” in the United States.
Those wanting to crash our immigration system realize that the media will make the “human stories” of illegal immigrants compelling, particularly if young children are involved. They also understand that America’s immigration courts have been “crashed” and cannot possibly hear the huge backload of cases. And so, if aspiring asylees showing up with children that may or may not be theirs can somehow manage to sneak into U.S. territory before making their asylum requests, they are unlikely to be sent back to Mexico right away; rather, they stand a good chance of being released into the U.S. interior, along with a notice instructing them to report for a formal asylum hearing at some date in the very distant future. This gives the illegal immigrant plenty of time to simply disappear, never again to be seen by U.S. immigration authorities.
The first six calendar months of Donald Trump’s presidency—February through July of 2017—saw the number of migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. dwindle by about 50 percent, to a range of between 12,000 and 19,000 per month, largely as a result of Trump’s clearly articulated positions regarding border security and immigration-law enforcement. But by midway through 2017, it became increasingly clear that congressional Democrats and activist judges nationwide were committed to obstructing Trump’s attempts to implement any of those measures, and to manufacturing a crisis on the southern border that would throw American politics into chaos.
Some examples of the radical Democrats’ strategy:
(1) On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that called for the denial of federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” where police and other public-sector employees were barred from notifying the federal government about the presence of illegal aliens residing in their communities. Democrats loudly condemned this order. Rep. Norma Torres, for instance, described Trump’s action as a “cynical,” “dangerous,” and “ill-conceived” measure whose principal purpose was to “appease the far right at the expense of our [American] values, security, and economic well-being.” Rep. Tony Cardenas denounced Trump’s “unwarranted and misguided” “attack” against the residents of sanctuary cities. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham lamented that Trump’s policy would “turn neighbor against neighbor,” “undermine the efforts of police departments,” and “devastate city budgets and services.” And Rep. Juan Vargas said that such “shameful” and “divisive” measures would “betray our nation’s values.”
(2) In March 2017, thirty-three congressional Democrats sent a letter to President Trump, demanding that he “rescind” his “unconstitutional” executive order. That same year, Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” a Republican-sponsored bill that sought to codify Trump’s executive order via the legislative process. And in an effort to counter the intentions of that bill, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois introduced the “Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017,” which stipulated that federal financial assistance could not be denied to any state or local government for reason of its noncompliance with federal immigration authorities. Quigley’s bill drew 52 Democrats as co-sponsors.
(3) In another January 2017 executive order, President Trump called for the construction of a wall to prevent illegal migration into the U.S. via the Mexico border. But congressional Democrats vocally condemned the plan.Rep. Darren Soto, for one, stated that “this wall … will only further escalate the racial divisions and tensions created at the outset of Trump’s campaign.” Rep. Salud Carbajal depicted the proposed wall as “a multi-billion dollar symbol of xenophobia and hate.” And Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said that “building a wall along our southern border will ... be a shameful act in front of the international community that is watching us.”
(4) In an effort “to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” President Trump issued a January 25, 2017 executive order temporarily suspending most travel and refugee admissions to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria. The order also created what Trump described as an “extreme vetting” process for visitors from those nations. But within three days, federal judge Ann M. Donnelly—who had been appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York by President Obama—issued an emergency stay to prevent the removal of any individuals arriving in the United States from the aforementioned countries. On February 3, federal judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) suspending the enforcement of Trump’s executive order nationwide. Six days after that, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Robart’s TRO. Immigrant-rights groups, meanwhile, were predictably outraged by Trump’s proposal. As ACLU executive director Anthony Romero lamented: “‘Extreme vetting’ is just a euphemism for discriminating against Muslims. Identifying specific countries with Muslim majorities and carving out exceptions for minority religions flies in the face of the constitutional principle that bans the government from either favoring or discriminating against particular religions.”
(5) In February 2017, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency executed a series of raids in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, targeting convicted criminals, gang members, and people who had re-entered the United States after being legally deported. Major Democratic political figures swiftly denounced the operations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for one, was “troubled by the lack of transparency and potential due process violations surrounding ICE’s most recent enforcement actions.” Rep. Luis Gutierrez complained that “the goal of such policies is to inject fear into immigrant communities, frighten families and children, and drive immigrants farther underground.” And Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said, “No Angeleno should ever have to fear being snatched from their home or separated from their loved ones.”
When the figure reached nearly 40,000 apprehensions in both March and April of 2018, the Trump administration attempted to take action. Specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on April 6th announced that the government would thenceforth pursue a “zero-tolerance” policy whereby every adult caught illegally crossing the border—or even attempting to do so—would be subject to criminal prosecution.
In response to this announcement, the Democratic Party launched a vicious propaganda campaign against President Trump and members of his administration, accusing them of mistreating poor, defenseless migrants and their young children in the most abominable ways. Particularly widespread were charges that the administration was pursuing a policy of forced “family separation” whereby youngsters were routinely being “torn” or “ripped” from the arms of their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for one, denounced “this administration’s policies that literally rip babies from the arms of their mothers and fathers” as “one of the darkest moments in our history.” Senator Bernie Sanders said, “You don’t rip little children away from the arms of their mother.” And Senator Elizabeth Warren told a large crowd of her supporters in Boston: “President Trump seems to think the only way to have immigration rules is [to] rip parents from their families … and to put children in cages.”
In June 2018, some 111 House Democrats signed a letter urging the top two members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to bar the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from funding the enforcement of Trump’s “inhumane” and “misguided” policy of “family separation” at the border.
Supplementing these efforts were media outlets nationwide, which disseminated a massive array of stories about, and images of, weeping mothers and children being separated from one another at America’s Southern border. One of the more iconic pictures was a Time magazine cover that showed a small girl crying in terror as she looked up at the unsympathetic face of Donald Trump, whose image had been positioned before her. The caption read, “Welcome to America.” Emotional appeals like these were highly successful at putting Republicans on the defensive. Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins told CBS’s Face the Nation that separating children from their parents was “traumatizing” to the youngsters and “contrary to our values in this country.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “legislation is necessary” because “we don’t want kids to be separated from their parents.” Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush stated that President Trump “should end this heartless policy.” And First Lady Melania Trump, who rarely issued any public statements on policy matters, said that the U.S. should strive to be a country that “governs with heart.”
The History of “Family Separation”
The highly inflammatory charge that migrant children were being cruelly and heartlessly separated from their parents at the border was the centerpiece of the Democrats’ radical strategy to “crash” America’s immigration system and torpedo in particular President Trump’s efforts to enforce a sound immigration policy. (Moreover, the cynical use of these children was illustrated by the fact, as testified to by immigration officers, that many of them were in effect “rented out” to illegal migrants who used them as props in their efforts to get asylum.)
The emotionally charged focus on illegal immigrant children being separated from their parents actually dates back to 1985—a time when the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) had jurisdiction over all immigration matters in the United States. That year, a number of activist organizations—the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and National Center for Youth Law—joined the law offices of Streich Lang in filing a class-action lawsuit challenging an INS policy that prevented unaccompanied illegal-alien children from being released to any U.S.-based adults other than their parents or legal guardians. In 1988, Judge Robert Kelleher of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of these plaintiffs by making it easier to release minors to the care of adults who were not the youngsters’ parents or guardians. In 1990, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Kelleher’s decision and upheld the original INS policy. But in 1991, all eleven judges of the Ninth Circuit Court met en banc and issued a 7-4 decision reversing the three-judge panel’s decision and reaffirming Judge Kelleher’s 1988 position.
In 1992, this same case, known as Reno v. Flores, went to the Supreme Court, which in 1993 voted 7-2 in favor of reversing the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision and restoring the original INS policy from pre-1988. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority: “Where the Government does not intend to punish the child, and where the conditions of Governmental custody are decent and humane, such custody surely does not violate the Constitution.”
Notwithstanding this emphatic decision by the nation’s highest court, immigration activist groups continued to file lawsuits and to apply political pressure aimed at restoring Judge Kelleher’s 1988 standard. Eventually, in 1997, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner—fulfilling the wishes of the Clinton administration—signed a settlement of the Flores case whereby the government agreed that it would thenceforth strive to place unaccompanied alien children in the “least restrictive” setting by releasing them “without unnecessary delay” to—in order of preference—their parents, legal guardians, other adult relatives, or other individuals designated by the parents or guardians.
In 2003, Congress disbanded the INS and transferred the agency’s responsibilities to several entities within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The task of placing alien minors with their parents or other caretakers, however, was assigned to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). But immigrant-rights activists persisted in complaining that the DHS, HHS, and ORR were not adequately complying with the terms of the 1997 Flores settlement. Finally, in 2015, California federal district court judge Dolly Gee, an appointee of President Obama, ruled that because detention centers in Texas had failed to meet the standards laid out in Flores, the Obama administration would now be required to release—within 20 days—all children apprehended while crossing the border illegally, whether or not they were accompanied by an adult. “In other words,” the Center for Immigration Studies explains, “now all minors in detention, whether or not they were with their parents, couldn’t be detained for more than three weeks. This ruling laid the groundwork for the current [policy], in which children are released while their parents can still be detained awaiting hearings—hence, the ‘separation’ of families. The alternative is simply releasing the entire family after three weeks or less.”
These were precisely the same narrow alternatives that were open to the Trump administration in April 2018, when it implemented its new “zero tolerance” policy vis-a-vis illegal entry.
In May and June of 2018, the apprehensions of illegal border-crossers continued to range roughly between 35,000 and 40,000 people per month. The Democratic and media condemnations of President Trump continued apace as well.
Finally, on June 20, 2018, Trump, under mounting political pressure not only from Democrats but also from members of his own party, signed an executive order ending the practice of separating children from their parents at the border, while keeping the zero-tolerance policy intact. In other words, it would now be deemed permissible to detain adult migrants and their children together indefinitely. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” said Trump. The president’s order also required the Defense Department to provide and, “if necessary,” construct facilities in which to house and care for the families.
The left was not at all mollified by Trump’s gesture, however. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for one, complained that because the president’s new policy continued to require that migrant families be held in detention centers, it was treating them “like criminals.” Karen Tumlin, director of legal strategy at the National Immigration Law Center, said: “The president doesn’t get any Brownie points for moving from a policy of locking up kids and families separately to a policy of locking them up together. Let’s be clear: Trump is making a crisis of his own creation worse.” And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged that President Trump’s executive order merely “seeks to replace one form of child abuse with another” by “pav[ing] the way for the long-term incarceration of families in prison-like conditions.”
Overwhelming the Immigration System
Notwithstanding President Trump’s stated intentions, in practice it became wholly impossible for the government to keep migrant families together in detention centers for any extended period of time, simply because their numbers were far greater than the capacity of the detention centers to hold them. Thus, as The New York Times would report soon thereafter: “The government has been letting thousands of detained migrants go free each week because it lacks enough beds to hold them in family detention facilities.”
The Times further noted that the migrants, for their part, were quick to learn the loopholes which they could exploit in order to get the most favorable disposition for themselves and their families:
The majority [of migrants] know to request asylum at the border, either at an official port of entry or when they surrender to border agents shortly after sneaking into the country from Mexico. They know that they are unlikely to remain detained if they travel with a child and that they have a better shot at fending off deportation when they come with a child.... Customs and Border Protection officials believe that the various legal rulings preventing families from being detained have helped solidify the message to smugglers, who roam villages offering to guide people to the United States, that adults who come with a child are protected from deportation.
The Washington Post concurred that illegal Central American migrants were streaming into the U.S. “typically in groups of one parent and one child,” because they understood that “such pairings all but ensure the family will be processed quickly and released from U.S. custody in a matter of days.” “[T]he practical effect,” said a New York Times piece, “is that most families are released into the country to await their hearings in immigration court. [But the] courts are so backlogged that it could take months or years for cases to be decided. Some people never show up for court at all.”
In July and August of 2018, apprehensions of illegal border-crossers continued to range between 30,000 and 40,000 per month.
That summer as well, Democrats opened up yet another avenue in their attacks against President Trump and the border-security bureaucracy, now alleging that ICE’s heavy-handedness in dealing with vulnerable migrants was cause for the agency’s abolition. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN’s Chris Cuomo: “I don’t think ICE today is working as intended. I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues.” Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote in a Facebook post, “The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.” Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin claimed that “ICE is tearing apart families and ripping the moral fabric of our nation.” And Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said: “People should be treated with compassion and respect. ICE is simply not doing that. Trump and his administration have made the agency so toxic that it’s time to abolish ICE, and start over.”
In mid-October of 2018, a separate effort to overwhelm America’s border-control apparatus was launched from Central America when a large caravan—composed of several thousand people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—began migrating northward for the declared purpose of defiantly walking across America’s southern border and taking up residence in the United States. The effort was spearheaded by Pueblo Sin Fronteras (PSF)—meaning “People Without Borders” —a nonprofit organization whose overriding objective is to “abolish borders” and facilitate the free, unregulated movement of Central American migrants into the United States.
In an October 21, 2018 press release, PSF accused President Trump and the United States of using “repressive tactics” to inflict “fear and racism” on the people of Central America. Moreover, the organization demanded that Mexico declare itself a “sanctuary country” with wide-open borders.
Between October 2018 and January 2019, there was a noticeable upsurge in apprehensions of illegals just north of America’s southern border, with an average of 50,398 per month. This figure included, on average, 5,021 unaccompanied children as well as 20,382 single adults and 24,994 members of “family units.” The fact that the “family units” figure was substantially higher than the others, served as evidence of what the Center for Immigration Studies described as “the rapidly growing number of border infiltrators using children as a ticket to release into the interior.” It was also evidence of a widening scam, featuring thousands of documented cases of adult migrants falsely claiming to be the parents of the children traveling with them. Clearly, the people of Latin America understood that the loopholes in America’s immigration and asylum system could be easily exploited. As Gallup reported in early 2019: “A full 5 million [Latin Americans] who are planning to move in the next 12 months say they are moving to the U.S.”
On January 8, 2019, President Trump attempted to make his case for border security directly to the American people. In an Oval Office address in which he warned of “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our Southern border,” the president stated, among other things:
“Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
“Our Southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone. Ninety percent of which floods across from our southern border.”
“In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.”
“[C]hildren are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”
“Some have suggested [that] a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is [for] the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”
But Congressional Democrats dismissed Trump’s message as nothing more than an exercise in bigotry, fear-mongering, and, ironically—given the role that the Cloward-Piven Strategy now played in their own political maneuvering—“staging a crisis.” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, for example, said: “This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi likewise accused President Trump of “manufacturing a crisis” by means of “cruel and counterproductive policies” that scapegoated “the women and children at the border” as “a security threat.” And Senator Bernie Sanders said in a video statement: “Mr. President, we don’t need to create artificial crises. We have enough real ones.”
That same month—February 2019—the total number of illegal aliens apprehended near America’s Southern border shot up to 66,884. This figure included 6,818 unaccompanied children, 23,535 single adults, and 36,531 “family unit” members. The latter figure was 46% higher than the corresponding January figure.
The steep upward trend in border-area apprehensions continued in March 2019, when the figure reached 92,835, most of them as members of “family units.” Border Protection commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan warned that “the system is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point.”
April of 2019 brought more of the same: 99,290 apprehensions that included 8,893 unaccompanied children, 31,681 single adults, and an astounding 58,716 “family unit” members. As the Families & Children Care Panel of Customs & Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, noted in its Final Emergency Interim Report that same month: “By far, the major ‘pull factor’ is the current practice of releasing with a NTA [Notice To Appear in court at a later date] most illegal migrants who bring a child with them.” In May 2019, the number of border-area apprehensions reached 132,880, among whom were 11,489 unaccompanied minors, 36,900 single adults, and a previously unimaginable 84,491 people in “family units.” Noting that “the numbers for May prove the crisis is only getting worse,” U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Law Enforcement Operations Brian Hastings pointed out that as many as 60 percent of all Border Patrol agents were being pulled from their customary law-enforcement duties and shifted into roles where they were providing illegal migrants with housing, food, and transportation.
And how did Democrats respond to this growing catastrophe within America’s immigration system? By doing everything in their power to exacerbate it. Not only did almost all the announced candidates for the Democratic nomination for President indicate, in the first of the Party’s presidential debates in June 2019, that they wanted to “decriminalize” illegal border crossings, but they also agreed that American taxpayers should now be required to pay for the healthcare coverage of every illegal immigrant residing in the United States.
Immigration policy became open political warfare as President Trump kept trying to find some way to circumvent the Democrats’ uncompromising devotion to open borders and to policies that disastrously stressed the immigration system. On July 15, 2019, he announced his intent to implement a new policy that would bar most migrants from applying for asylum after illegally crossing America’s southern border, unless they had first been unsuccessful in seeking asylum in one of the “safe” countries that they traversed on their way to the United States. In other words, would-be asylees from El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua would be ineligible for asylum in the U.S. unless they had first applied in Mexico and been rejected. This was in keeping with existing American law.
While Attorney General William Barr maintained the legality of the Trump administration’s move, advocates of open borders immediately rose up against it. “The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.” Congressional Democrats, of course, were no less militant. “Unfortunately, this morning, the Trump Administration announced they will seek to undermine our nation’s asylum laws,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This cruel and anti-immigrant Administration is overreaching and stacking the deck against asylum seekers by limiting their rights to due process under our laws. This is simply not who we are as a country.”
The Costs of Illegal Immigration
What are the costs of the Democrats’ cynical political maneuverings, in addition to the division they have created in our political system? At the federal, state, and local levels, U.S. taxpayers currently shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the education, medical, welfare, and law enforcement-related costs associated with the nation’s estimated 12.5 million illegal aliens and their 4.2 million citizen children (who were born in the United States). According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, this “amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member.” By contrast, illegal aliens pay only about $19 billion in federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, and excise taxes annually, meaning that they represent, on balance, a huge financial drain on the United States.
Yet another enormous cost that illegal aliens impose on American society shows up in crime statistics. A Fox News analysis of local, state and federal data found that “illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population and account for far more crimes than their 3.5-percent share of the U.S. population would suggest.” It is estimated, for instance, that 13.6 percent of the people sentenced for all crimes committed in the United States are illegals; among these are 12 percent of murderers and 16 percent of drug traffickers. In 2014, illegals accounted for nearly three-fourths of all federal drug sentences and over one-third of federal sentences overall.
Because of its geographic location, the state of Texas is, in the words of The Hill, “an epicenter for illegal immigrant crimes.” An analysis conducted by both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Texas law-enforcement authorities found that between June 2011 and March 2017, more than 217,000 criminal immigrants had been arrested and incarcerated in Texas alone. These perpetrators had jointly committed nearly 600,000 criminal offenses, including almost 1,200 homicides and approximately 69,000 assaults, 17,000 burglaries, 700 kidnappings, 6,200 sexual assaults, 69,000 drug offenses, 8,700 weapons violations, and 3,800 robberies. The DHS confirmed that about two-thirds of these immigrant criminals were in the U.S. illegally at the time of their arrests.
Conclusion The numbers cited above are staggering. Yet, no matter how stark the evidence that America’s economic and social foundations are buckling under the enormous strains imposed by illegal migration and the abuse of our asylum system, Democrats continue to press for policies that would only amplify the destructive effects of those burdens. They are determined to do whatever they can to overwhelm the nation’s border-security bureaucracy to the point of crisis, which in turn would set the stage for Congress to pass some type of hollow, face-saving “path-to-citizenship” measure that would give the false appearance of doing something to address the problem.
The Democrats’ ultimate objective is a simple one: to import a massive bloc of new voters who will support their party in overwhelming numbers for generations to come, thereby changing forever the economic and cultural values of American society. This motive was illuminated with crystal clarity by a 2018 Center for American Progress Action Fund memo in which onetime Hillary Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri called on Democrats to aggressively defend former president Obama’s DACA program, which protected hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens from being deported. And why was this so vital to Palmieri? Because those illegals, she explained, represented “a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success.” As the Washington Times puts it: “With declining support from white and older Americans, the Democrats have concluded that their future lies in importing a new electorate from south of the border.” It is well established that a significant majority of immigrants to the United States tend, when they become active politically, to support Democrats. All told, approximately 70 percent of Hispanic voters in the U.S. today cast their ballots for Democrats. This is consistent with a Pew Research Center finding that 75 percent of Hispanics in America would prefer a bigger federal government that provides more taxpayer-funded services—a typically Democratic position—as compared to just 41 percent of the overall U.S. population. An important study by University of Maryland political scientist James Gimpel confirms that increased levels of immigration at the county level are associated with diminished support for the Republican party in those locales. This occurs, says Gimpel, not only because of Democrat votes cast by immigrants—many of whom are currently non-citizens and thus cannot vote—but also because of outmigration by natives who dislike the cultural and economic changes that immigration often brings. The orchestrated-crisis strategy that Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven first put forth 53 years ago has gone from being a strategy of political outsiders, to being a keystone of today’s Democrat Party. When they first proposed altering the nature of American society by stressing its key components, Cloward and Piven saw it as a way to persuade the disaffected black “masses” to “deliver their [political] loyalties to their benefactors,” who were mostly Democrats. The goal today is likewise to help Democratic politicians obtain the political loyalty of disaffected minorities, although these minorities are imported from other nations.
John Perazzo is the editor of www.discoverthenetworks.org.