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The far right chose virtue signaling over legislating. That caused the shutdown.

Immigration restrictionists killed any chance at a compromise.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) makes an announcement on the introduction of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on August 2, 2017, in Washington, DC.
Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty Images

On Thursday, I wrote that President Trump’s remarks on immigration from “shithole” countries was emblematic of a larger, more pervasive, and more dangerous viewpoint on the intersection of immigration and race:

Trump isn’t just expressing what some conservatives view as “politically incorrect” sentiments. He — and, importantly, members of his staff — is embracing what used to be a fringe theory held by the furthest of the far right — one that holds that white people are being systematically “erased” by their inferiors, and thus require an influx of white babies and new white immigrants (and the exclusion of nonwhite immigrants) to survive.

Now, that viewpoint has resulted in the shutdown of the federal government.

Immigration restrictionists got us into this mess

The current debacle on the Hill has markedly little to do with concerns about border security — it’s about halting immigration, especially from nonwhite countries.

In the final days and hours before the government shut down, Trump torpedoed a bipartisan compromise that was Congress’s best shot at passing a package that would keep the government open and do something about the DACA program Trump ended last year, but wanted fixed. The compromise would have given Trump much of what he has stated he wants out of immigration reform, including a border wall and an end to “diversity visas.” And it included provisions that he himself favored less than four months ago.

Instead, Trump landed here:

Trump had turned toward the views of restrictionists in Congress like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), whom the president invited to the “shithole” meeting. In the White House, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has long influenced Trump’s attitudes on immigration policy.

The silent hand of Miller on Trump’s view toward DACA was notable enough that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) mentioned it to MSNBC, saying that Miller’s approach had “no viability.”

The GOP is supporting policies that do more virtue signaling than legislating

Breitbart fired right back at Graham, running a piece that called him “pro-amnesty,” while referring to Cotton as “the heir to Jeff Sessions’ pro-American immigration reform agenda.” Cotton has said that the “American people” favor Trump’s — and, more importantly, his own — “economic nationalist approach” to immigration, one that favors massive cuts on legal immigration and harsh penalties on legal immigrants and DACA recipients, and criminalizing the status of undocumented immigrants, who currently are in violation of civil law, not criminal law.

The language used by sites like Breitbart make crystal clear that this is all about demographic mythmaking and fearmongering. In the article describing Cotton’s desired immigration policy, Breitbart’s John Binder writes:

By 2023, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that the legal and illegal immigrant population of the U.S. will make up nearly 15 percent of the entire U.S. population.

The Center for Immigration Studies was founded by John Tanton, who has a history of embracing eugenicist policies (he founded a pro-eugenics organization, the Society for Genetic Education, or SAGE) and was reported as telling a friend, “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

Now Tanton’s allies — and Cotton, Steve King, Bob Goodlatte, and, most of all, Donald Trump — are attempting to put these ideas into immigration policy. And they wonder why Democrats aren’t interested.