On June 20 The Atlantic posted an article by Peter Beinart claiming that the Democrats had “lost their way on immigration.”
Beinart is a respected liberal centrist—of the sort that supported the 2003 Iraq invasion until it started going bad—so the article created a stir among opinion makers. Rightwingers at Breitbart and National Review gloated. Liberals took Beinart’s thesis to heart: Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum endorsed the article, and Thomas Edsall quoted it in the New York Times. A Chicago Tribune columnist cited it as an “important essay.”
It’s true that Beinart makes some good points. He suggests that the Democratic Party’s current pro-immigrant stance is largely just pandering to Latino voters. He dredges up decade-old comments from Glenn Greenwald, Paul Krugman, and Barack Obama that they probably wouldn’t want to make publicly now (although Greenwood backed off from his anti-immigration rant a few years ago). Beinart also questions a standard liberal claim that the presence of eight million documented immigrants in the workforce has only a minimal depressing effect on the wages of native-born workers, and he notes that one of the claim’s main proponents, University of California Davis economics professor Giovanni Peri, is also an apologist for guestworker programs and gets funding from firms like Microsoft that bring in foreign tech workers on H-1B visas.
But Beinart’s article is mostly a compendium of familiar sound bites on immigration, presented without much understanding of the issues.
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