In recent months, the political leadership of two neighboring countries with large immigration programs issued very different messages. They would be the United States and Canada.

In the United States, President Trump and his Republican allies vilified the “caravan” of Central Americans making their way toward the border.

Democrats stayed mostly mum about the thousands seemingly intent on entering the United States illegally.

Democrats lucked out in having Trump to run against. And they were smart in the final days of the campaign to ignore Trump’s desperate fearmongering against immigrants. They stuck to safe issues for them, such as health care. But now that they will control the House, Democrats need a coherent immigration policy right away. It can’t be — or even appear to be — favoring open borders.

Listen to how Canada’s minister of immigration, Ahmed Hussen, responded to a convoy of Haitians headed toward the Quebec border: “We don’t want people to illegally enter our border, and doing so is not a free ticket to Canada. We are saying, ‘You will be apprehended, screened, detained, fingerprinted, and if you can’t establish a genuine claim, you will be denied refugee protection and removed.’”

See? No attacks on the Haitians’ character. No racial smears. Hussen’s message was clear. In no uncertain terms, Canada’s immigration laws would be enforced.

Democrats, your dream of expanding health care security is incompatible with opening the door wide to the world’s poor. Canada immediately enrolls immigrants in its national health care system, another reason for enforcement.

We should want some of the impoverished strivers, but we must also rebalance the entry requirements to, like Canada, favor entrants with needed skills. The hope of restoring blue-collar America is futile if we flood the labor market with low-skilled competitors.

It’s socially disrupting when only right-wingers seem to support defending the borders. Democrats must make clear that they want an immigration system that is generous and welcoming but also wedded to enforcing the laws. Now is the time to do it.

Froma Harrop is a writer and author. She is best known for her bi-weekly syndicated column which appears in about 200 newspapers. She can be reached at