At his most recent campaign rally, Donald Trump added a new line to his standard message. Unfortunately, it involved the president attacking a pending piece of legislation that exists only in his imagination.
“Every single Democrat in the U.S. Senate has signed up for the open borders – and it’s a bill. And it’s called The Open Borders Bill. What’s going on? And it’s written by – guess who – Dianne Feinstein.”
Trump’s lies come in a variety of types and styles, but the ones that alarm me the most are the lies in which he describes imaginary things as real. The president has an unnerving habit, for example, of telling people detailed information about conversations that simply did not occur in reality, though he seems convinced that they did.
This falls into the same broad category. There is no “Open Borders Bill.” Trump made it up. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has a bill to prohibit family separations at the border, and the proposal enjoys broad Democratic support, but no sane person would characterize that as an “open borders” policy. (The White House says it no longer supports family separations, either.)
When the lines between fact and fiction blur for the president, it’s unsettling.
But more broadly, Trump has also apparently convinced himself, not only that an imaginary bill is real, but also that he’s accurately describing the Democratic position on immigration policy.
To put it mildly, he isn’t.
I realize that the president isn’t a fan of nuance or substantive policy debates. He enjoys the convenience of binary framing: to agree with the far-right agenda on immigration is to be “tough”; to oppose it is to support “open borders.”
But no one of any influence in Democratic politics endorses Trump’s bizarre description of the party’s agenda. On the contrary, the Obama administration strengthened border security measures well beyond what we saw under his Republican predecessor.
The “Gang of Eight” immigration policy – a bipartisan package that enjoyed unanimous support among Senate Democrats – included so many investments in border security, it effectively militarized the U.S./Mexico border. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who ended up voting for the plan, told MSNBC in 2013 that the bipartisan legislation’s approach to border security was “almost overkill.”
But if that was the price to gain Republican support for the bipartisan framework, it was one Democrats were willing to pay – because “open borders” in no way reflects the party’s goal.