A demonstrator holds a sign while marching towards Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

Being Pro-Capitalist Means Being Pro-Immigrant

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Those bleeding hearts. Just listen to ’em whine about the poor, abused immigrants:

Parents are being told if they plead guilty and drop any claim of asylum they can be reunited more quickly with their children. . . . Some administration officials reportedly view the policy of separating children from their parents as leverage to gain other immigration policy changes from Congress.

 Let that sink in for a second: our government is forcibly separating children – including toddlers – from their parents and sending them to detention facilities as a means of sending a message and influencing Congress.

The speaker in this case isn’t House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi or some left-coast human-rights activist. It’s Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Donohue made his comments on June 19, right after a couple of opinion polls revealed huge public opposition to President Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children, including infants, from their parents in an effort to punish families seeking asylum, or crossing the southern border illegally, with the ostensible goal of deterring others.

Donohue’s cry of conscience, in a statement titled “Separating Children from Families Must End Now,” is a measure of how unhinged Trump’s policy is from democratic norms of morality or law. After all, it’s not easy to shock the conscience of the chamber. Above all, its leaders prize minimal regulation and low taxes for corporations (and for corporate executives). The chamber has proved willing to abide all manner of GOP voodoo — economic, racial, environmental, ballistic — along with Trump's brand of malicious chaos so long as the party delivers.

Trump’s immigration agenda has been consistent with his policies disrupting trade and undermining America's bedrock alliances. His agenda is not a retreat from the world — Trump keeps insisting on improved relations with Russia — but a multi-pronged attack on the democratic parts of it and on the values that buttress those alliances, nations and institutions.

Trump opponents have rallied against the cruelty of his family separation policy, which may or may not rise to the level of a human rights crime. But they have largely failed to make the distinction between open societies and open borders — and to point out that they support the former and not the latter.

Open societies, based on relatively free flows of trade, ideas and people, are said to be in disrepute, and Trump’s election is a prime exhibit for the claim. But Trump himself doesn’t seem so sure. He often attacks the parts of openness, rarely the whole.

Immigrants are criminals who “infest the nation. Trade cheats the U.S. NATO costs more than it’s worth. Yet Trump declines to connect those dots; he fails to create a vision of the nation his policies foretell.

Proponents of openness should do the ugly work for him. Trump’s cruelty toward immigrants and contempt for allies are wrong for their own sake, but they’re also a drag on the U.S.’s economic prospects, its security and on faith in the future itself. And they are the ties that most obviously bind Trump to authoritarianism elsewhere.

“Attacks on immigration are central to illiberalism in Europe and in the U.S.,” said Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg. “Trump’s opponents should take advantage of his failures not only to push back against his illiberal policies, but to offer a smart, comprehensive immigration plan for America.”

Trump’s standard grift, and his disdain for the rules that he imposes on others, haven’t seemed to budge public opinion much. But they can be used to expose the bankruptcy of his policies. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club is once again seeking a contingent of immigrant labor, claiming it cannot find domestic workers to fill jobs — making a mockery of his immigration claims.

Trump’s threat to the humane treatment of immigrants isn’t an outlier. It’s linked to his threat to ethical government and democracy, and to his threat to successful capitalism. Democrats should vocally make that case. This time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce should join them.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.