True 'Compassion' Requires Secure Borders and Stopping Illegal Immigration | Opinion

In June 2015, Donald Trump rode down the infamous escalator at Trump Tower to announce his presidential bid. Like a lot of people, I didn't know what to think. From the start, I appreciated his populist instincts on trade and immigration, as well as his hard-line approach to China. But he was a former Democrat and his style seemed too abrasive, and I said as much. Surely, I thought, we can fix our broken politics with a more traditional Republican.

After he won, I rethought my opposition. As I watched the constant stream of venom from Democratic Party "resisters" and their allies in the corporate media, it dawned on me that President Trump's aggressive style was a feature, not a bug.

What separated Donald Trump from other Republicans in my lifetime wasn't just his populist-inspired policy agenda—it was his fearlessness. When he nominated my friend (and my wife's former boss) Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the Left threw every reprehensible slander imaginable in Kavanaugh's direction. I assumed Trump would fold and withdraw the nomination. But he didn't. He stood his ground, and Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed successfully.

That's a big part of why I backed President Trump's re-election in 2020. There were many reasons I did so, but nothing stands out as much as a dinner I attended with my wife and the leaders of dozens of America's wealthiest corporations.

One of the things I had no idea about, coming from a working-class background, is that America's ruling class loves to celebrate how much power and money it has. I call these "masters of the universe" events, and they're held all over the country in fancy hotels, ski lodges and beach resorts. On this particular evening, my wife and I found ourselves at a roundtable with the CEO of a large hotel chain on our left, and a large communications conglomerate on our right.

The Republicans, we're often told, are the party of the rich and famous. Yet nearly everyone assembled at this dinner simply loathed Donald Trump. He was the focus of nearly every conversation. And then the hotel CEO announced, "Trump has no idea how much his policies are hurting business. I mean, we can't keep people for $18 an hour in our hotels. If we're not paying $20, we're understaffed. And it's all because of Donald Trump's immigration policies."

Let's pause for a second to appreciate one of the wealthiest men in the world complaining about paying hard-working staff $20 an hour. The only thing he was missing was the Monopoly Man hat and cane. His argument, while vile, was at least intellectually honest: "Normally, if we can't find workers at a given wage, we just get a bunch of immigrants to do the job. It's easy. But there are so few people coming in across the border, so we just have to pay the people here more." This is why the American labor movement opposed immigration expansion for much of the past century—until recently, when many labor unions decided that being woke took priority over protecting workers.

Migrants crossing U.S.-Mexico border near Ciudad Juarez
Migrants crossing U.S.-Mexico border near Ciudad Juarez John Moore/Getty Images

My wife is not a political person, and I've never seen her as animated by a conversation about politics as she was at this "masters of the universe" dinner. "OK," she told me later. "I can understand why you can't stand these people."

I've thought of this moment frequently, as our southern border has exploded into crisis. We're a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with tens of millions of people unemployed. Countless businesses have been destroyed. Despite the enormous challenges facing America's working class, those same masters of the universe and the politicians they fund are still looking for the same thing: cheap foreign labor. No one seems to care that many migrants test positive for COVID every day and will directly compete with our struggling service sector workers.

Republicans are right to oppose this madness, but there's a deeper question we often miss: Why is this happening? Why are we inviting thousands of people to come in the midst of a global pandemic, while economic devastation wrecks our working and middle classes? Why are we promising amnesty for millions when we know the vicious transnational drug cartels use that promise to sell desperate people on the promise of crossing the border?

The answer is what I saw at that dinner: It's about money. Nearly every major business and financial leader in this country is a supporter of the Democratic Party. They love illegal immigration for the simple reason that their livelihoods are subsidized by illegal immigration—while illegal aliens themselves are subsidized by the taxpayer. It's a redistribution scheme from the poor to the rich. More immigration means lower wages for their workers and easier access to servants for their decadent personal lives.

We should take a page from President Trump's playbook and call this what it is. Whenever I criticize the Biden administration's immigration policies, someone tells me I'm "racist." Many Republicans naturally grow defensive—no one wants to be tagged as a racist, especially in today's environment when an accusation like that can end your career or ruin your life.

But the proper response to these criticisms is to ignore them. It's not racist to want a secure border, higher-paying jobs for our fellow citizens and a government that doesn't allow human smugglers to earn billions of dollars on the plight of poor people. It's not racist to want to keep meth and heroin (most of which comes in through Mexico) out of our aching communities' bloodstream. And it's not racist to prevent human traffickers from taking advantage of the desperate poor of Central America.

What's so disgusting about the charge of racism is that it takes something good about the American people—their compassion for their fellow citizens—and warps it in service of our corporate overlords. Who cares about American solidarity if your hotel chain share price goes up a few pennies, right?

The people who echo those talking points should be shamed and dismissed. It's not racist to refuse to do the bidding of America's corporate oligarchy, and it's not compassionate to create a crisis on both sides of our southern border.

J.D. Vance is the bestselling author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Follow him on Twitter: @JDVance1.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.