Key Bridge Collapse Now an Illegal Immigration Political Football


April 11, 2024

By Brian Lonergan

The enduring catchphrase of the Barack Obama presidency was not “Hope and Change.” That saccharine bumper sticker was the political equivalent of cotton candy: sweet on the surface but ultimately hollow and empty.

No, the signature line of that era was “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Uttered by then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, it was pure Machiavelli and designed to exploit the public’s emotions after a tragedy to enact laws or policies so extreme they would not otherwise meet public approval. The anti-borders movement remembers it well, and is putting it into practice to manipulate last month’s bridge collapse in Baltimore to further its agenda.

To anyone who doesn’t follow politics closely, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month appeared to be a fairly simple news story: cargo ship accidentally hits bridge, bridge collapses. In today’s cynical, zero-sum world, however, every story is fair game to advance political goals.

As it turns out, at the time of the collapse there were six people working to fix potholes on the bridge, all of whom are believed to have been in the country illegally. Several of them died during the collapse. This prompted anti-borders activists to take to social media and spin a narrative that served to make the road workers into heroes and shame anyone with legitimate concerns about border security.

“Immigrants likely saved American lives on the Baltimore bridge by working difficult construction jobs for Americans in the middle of the night,” said one post on X that was met with predictable derision. Do we know that the illegal aliens in question took those jobs with the express purpose of “saving American lives?” Of course not. They couldn’t possibly have known that a cargo ship would take down the bridge that night. More likely, they were doing it for the steady work and the money, and in the process taking the place of Americans who would have done those jobs for a fair wage.

Television journalist Geraldo Rivera also weighed in on the collapse, stating that “there was no outrage from conservative media about them stealing jobs from citizens; because, as they often do, the migrants were doing a dirty, dangerous job no citizen wanted.”

Rivera, along with Nancy Pelosi and numerous other elites, love to push the trope about illegal aliens doing “jobs Americans just won’t do,” no matter how many times it is debunked. Rather than doing jobs Americans just won’t do, foreign workers are frequently the reason U.S. citizens are getting fired from their jobs. Employers tend to view hiring compliant foreign workers as way to reduce labor costs.

A group of black Americans along the Mississippi Delta settled lawsuits last year against two large farm companies that replaced them with foreign workers who arrived on H-2A visas from South Africa. There was no shortage of American farm workers in this case, only employers looking to import cheap labor to strengthen their bottom line.

The sight of public figures attempting to shame Americans for the deaths of illegal workers on the bridge is just a sideshow to the real objective of the effort.

The sight of public figures attempting to shame Americans for the deaths of illegal workers on the bridge is just a sideshow to the real objective of the effort. Shortly after the bridge collapse, the executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) lamented the death of the bridge workers and called on the White House to extend work permits to long-term illegal immigrants through Temporary Protected Status and Humanitarian Parole. The ABIC is reportedly backed by wealthy investors, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who support its push for a virtually endless stream of cheap foreign labor to be imported into the United States.

The effort to make the six road workers on the bridge that night into the moral equivalent of emergency responders rushing into the crumbling World Trade Center on 9/11 to rescue innocent victims is little more than a cheap appeal to manipulate the public’s emotions. Not a word was spoken about how employers often exploit illegals working in this country by paying them substandard wages, or how those workers likely had to pay bloodthirsty cartels to get into the country. Concerns for them, all well as working-class Americans in need of jobs, are ignored on the path to big-money political victories.

The cheap labor needs of Big Business are one of the driving factors in our current immigration crisis. The challenge is for Americans to look beyond the slick PR campaigns and see what is truly at stake.   

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in Washington, D.C, and co-host of IRLI’s “No Border, No Country” podcast.

Also published at Chronicles, April 10, 2024.

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