Protesters blow whistle on Biden over immigration

Immigration baffles both political parties. Republicans have made such a mess out of their handling of the issue that we often forget that the topic is just as messy for Democrats to deal with.

The GOP struggles to please two opposing wings of the party that want different things: Chamber of Commerce Republicans who want the country to admit more immigrants so businesses can fill jobs, and Make America White Again Republicans who want fewer immigrants so we can time-travel back to the days of "Leave it to Beaver."

Likewise, Democrats struggle to please two opposing wings of their party who have different interests: Latinos who don't have a problem with admitting more immigrants, especially from Latin America; and organized labor, which has a big problem with having to work harder as it competes for jobs with immigrants -- both legal and illegal.

In trying to strike that balance, Democrats sometimes do the wrong thing -- or nothing. Neither path is acceptable.

That was the message that protesters tried to send Joe Biden at last week's Democratic debate in Houston as he was answering a question about overcoming setbacks.

Biden had a humdinger of an answer. He was preparing to tell the country how he survived the death of his son, Beau, and years earlier, the death of his daughter and first wife.

The poignant personal story made the timing of the heckling unfortunate -- but no less important. According to, and the accounts of people in the audience, the protesters were immigrant activists and recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

They chanted: "We are DACA recipients. Our lives are at risk." One man wore a shirt that read: "Defend DACA, Abolish ICE, citizenship for all." On the back were the words: "No human being is illegal on stolen land." The disrupters were quickly escorted from the room by security.

I don't think it was a coincidence that, out of the 10 people on stage, the protesters chose to heckle Biden. The former vice president is the candidate most closely identified with Barack Obama, a point that Biden drives home every chance he gets. And, as debate moderator Jorge Ramos brought up earlier in the evening, and some of Biden's opponents have brought up at other debates, Obama had a spotty record on immigration.

On the one hand, Obama delivered DACA, which gave two-year work permits and temporary dispensation to prevent more than 600,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported. On the other hand, he also set up the program in such a way that -- in order to get the benefit -- recipients would have to turn themselves in to authorities, get fingerprinted and photographed, and hand over their address and personal information.

Uncle Sam knows exactly where to find them. And now, their personal data has fallen into the hands of Uncle Scrooge. Donald Trump is one of the most anti-immigrant presidents in history. He canceled DACA in 2017, and, while lower federal courts have pushed back and tried to force the administration to reinstate it, we're at an impasse. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the legal challenges, and it will likely hear arguments before the end of the year.

DACA recipients have the right to be anxious. Some I've heard from regret going down this road. Others blame Obama for not honoring his pledge to achieve a permanent fix that would not have left them in jeopardy.

Obama also broke up families, caged children, sent refugees home without due process, roped local cops into enforcing federal immigration law and deported nearly 3 million illegal immigrants -- nearly all of whom were Latino.

Ramos grilled Biden about that record, asking if he had -- as vice president -- done anything to try to stop some of the deportations. He also wanted to know whether Biden thought Obama had made a mistake in removing so many people. Finally, Ramos asked Biden why Latinos should trust him.

Biden responded: "We didn't lock people up in cages. We didn't separate families. We didn't do all of those things."

But they did do all of those things and more. Why? See above. Not every Democrat in America wants an open border. In fact, very few do. Many Democrats approve of heavy-handed enforcement -- building walls, deporting people, separating families, etc.

And, if his attempt to bury the record is any indication, Biden is one of them. Surely, that's what the protesters wanted us to know.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is

© 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

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