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Ahead of Popular Immigration Votes, Republicans Engage in More Bad Politics, Bad Policy, and Bad Faith

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Meanwhile, Democrats Focused on Moving Country Forward


Later today, the House of Representatives will vote on two immigration bills, the Dream & Promise Act (HR 6) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 1603). Immigrant youth, TPS/DED holders, and farm workers are ready. Democrats in Congress are ready. The American people are ready. 

What about Republicans? Well, Republicans are engaged in their age-old mix of bad politics, bad policy, and bad faith. They are listening to Stephen Miller when he says that immigration is a good issue for them with suburban voters, after two elections of losing suburban voters because of Trump’s divisiveness, racism and xenophobia. They are gearing up to oppose popular citizenship bills. And they are once again relying on exaggerated fears at the border to justify their opposition. 

Bad Politics

  • Republicans ran on nativism in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. They lost each time. Ed Gillespie lost to Ralph Northam in Virginia in 2017. After Trump nationalized the 2018 midterms with his caravans hysteria, Republicans got their clock cleaned. In 2019, the GOP was so desperate they launched anti-immigrant attacks on Democratic gubernatorial candidates John Bel Edwards in Louisiana and Andy Beshar in Kentucky, and lost both. In 2020, Trump attacked Biden on “amnesty” in paid advertising and speeches, and lost. In 2020, the GOP attacked Pennsylvania House Democratic incumbents Conor Lamb and Matt Cartwright on voting for “amnesty” (the Dream and Promise Act on the floor again today), and lost. 
  • Stephen Miller tells the Associated Press today that immigration will be the key to GOP success in the 2022 elections: “‘Heading into the midterms, I think that Republicans are increasingly realizing that this can be one of the most potent issues, both to motivate our voters, but equally as important, to appeal to’ swing voters.” 
  • Let’s check his record:
    • In 2018, Stephen Miller told Breitbart News, “The big fight this summer is going to be with the open borders Democratic caucus in Congress. That is the fundamental political contrast and political debate that is unfolding right now. The Democratic party is at grave risk of completely marginalizing itself from the American voter.” Democrats won by the largest midterm margin in American history. Republican operatives later criticized Trump for emphasizing  immigration.
    • In 2020, Stephen Miller told Reuters that Joe Biden’s immigration stance would prove to be “a massive political vulnerability.” Between April and June 2020, the Trump campaign spent more on immigration ads on Facebook than on any other issue and our 2020 ad tracking project and report found that at the presidential level, Trump ran 157 unique ads that employed xenophobic messaging. Biden won 306 electoral college votes and won by more than 7 million votes, while the American public broke ever-more sharply in a pro-immigrant direction.
  • Nativism as a wedge issue seems to be losing its edge and the issue backfired or failed on the GOP (see our recent report, GOP Ad Wars in 2020: Divisive, Anti-immigrant and Racist). Do Republicans really want to follow the political advice and policy blueprint of a man whose cruel and relentless anti-immigrant agenda helped make the American people more pro-immigrant than ever?

Bad Policy

  • Republicans are, once again, set to oppose overwhelmingly popular bills for Dreamers, TPS holders and farmworkers.
  • For the past two decades, lawmakers from both parties have advocated for Dreamers to be formally recognized as the Americans they already are. But when push comes to shove, Republicans bail. Bills containing or featuring the Dream Act have been opposed by most Republicans in floor votes in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2018. Dreamers are overwhelmingly supported by the American public (see our recent poll with FWD.us here and a deep-dive polling roundup and overview on DACA and Dreamers here). The public support is mirrored by the voices of business, universities, labor, religious leaders, and others who know Dreamers as our friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers. This is a settled debate with the American people.
  • The story is much the same for TPS holders and farm workers – long-settled immigrants and essential workers who have always delivered for America but whose sacrifices and contributions have been in sharper relief this past year during the pandemic. 
  • Only within Republican circles and within segments of the Republican base are these controversial bills to oppose. In particular, we’ll be keeping our eyes on those GOP members who are among the 27 House Republicans who voted for the farmworker bill last Congress and remain in office as well as the 6 House Republicans who voted for Dream and Promise in 2019 and are still serving. We also will watch with interest the six new House Republicans who represent congressional districts that Biden won in 2020 and were not members of Congress during the 2019 votes: David Valadao (CA-21); Mike Garcia (CA-25); Young Kim (CA-39); Michelle Steel (CA-48); Beth Van Duyne (TX-24); and Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27). Each of them represents diversifying districts. Of note, California Representatives Valadao, Kim, and Steel ran as pro-Dreamer or pro-DACA candidates in their 2020 elections. See our recent reports on Republicans and 2020 here.

Bad Faith

  • Republicans are playing politics, have no solutions to offer and hide behind the age-old “border security” excuse. 
  • Republicans are already trying to justify their opposition to the immigration bills by saying “we need border security” and by stoking more fears about the “Biden border crisis” talking point they are hyping. As NBC’s Jacob Soboroff noted this week: “It’s been frustrating as a reporter who covers this to watch Republicans go down there and talk about the so-called Biden border crisis, use the children as political pawns… and advocating literally, absolutely nothing.” And as Greg Sargent noted in the Washington Post: “The situation under former president Donald Trump was substantially worse from a humanitarian and a pragmatic governing perspective: Worse for the migrants, worse for the rule of law and worse for our country … Yes, these problems are hard to solve. But that’s the point: What’s hard is actually trying to solve them. Calling this a ‘crisis’ outside that context is absurd…”
  • For Republicans, it doesn’t matter that we have nearly tripled enforcement spending since the mid-2000s. It doesn’t matter that 70% of the  migrants coming to the border are single adults, most of whom are sent back to Mexico immediately. It doesn’t matter that there has been a sharp decline in unauthorized immigration. It doesn’t matter that the fastest growing group of unauthorized immigrants are mostly refugees fleeing three Central American countries engulfed in violence, corruption and human rights violations. For most of our Republican political and thought leaders, until we have a border that is locked down better than East Germany did at the Berlin Wall, no “amnesty.” 

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The country is ready for a common sense breakthrough and Democrats are set to deliver. The question is whether Republicans are prepared to pass popular policy or play partisan politics.  

As the Washington Post editorialized this week, ‘border problems are a pretext for GOP intransigence,’ calling today’s votes ‘a defining fork in the road for a party wrestling with its future.

It is time for undocumented immigrants to be formally recognized as the Americans they already are. It’s time for members of Congress from both parties to stand with the American people to make it happen. And it’s time to call out and blow past Republicans’ political distractions, policy obstruction and bad faith.