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As Cotton and the GOP Try to Bully Democrats on Citizenship, Democrats Need to Blow Past Bad Faith Republicans and Deliver

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Washington, DC – Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) appeared on Fox News yesterday, hyping fears over the border and warning that the “crisis is about to get a lot worse” if Democrats “include a massive amnesty” in the upcoming budget reconciliation bill. 

Expect to hear a lot more of this kind of bullying from Republicans and conservative media in coming days and weeks. They know the public, including a majority of Republican voters,  supports pathways to citizenship, so they are reverting to the same “border first” excuse they have used for years to oppose such measures.

Have no fear, Democrats. You should stand up to the bullying and blow past the bad faith and political gamesmanship of Republicans. Deliver on your promises, transform millions of lives, make the majority of Americans happy and stand back as Republicans pander to a shrinking and more radicalized base. 

Here are three relevant lessons from recent polling.

The American public rejects the “border first” argument and wants progress on citizenship and a safe and well-managed border

  • A recent NPR piece on NPR/Ipsos polling is headlined, Despite Concerns About Border, Poll Finds Support For More Pathways To Citizenship. “Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about the situation at the border and the number of migrants coming in, but at the same time, many are still in favor of reforming the system,” said Mallory Newall, a research director at Ipsos. “We see support for allowing law-abiding migrants to become citizens…”
  • The poll found that 71% of Americans support citizenship for “farmworkers and other essential workers (61% of Republicans); 70% support citizenship for TPS holders (60% of Republicans); and 66% support citizenship for “undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children” (54% of Republicans).
  • While 79% of the public believes “the current situation at the border is a problem,” views are more complex than the GOP’s “keep em all out” position: 73% are concerned about “ensuring proper care for unaccompanied migrant children detained at the border” and 60% are concerned about “reuniting migrant families who were separated at the border by the Trump administration.”

In short, the American people reject the GOP’s core excuse for inaction. They want Congress to formally recognize settled undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are and support humane solutions to the challenges at the border.

By a 10-point margin, Americans support Democratic vision on immigration and border over Republican vision in head-to-head polling

In a recent battleground poll conducted by Global Strategy Group, Hart Research, BSP Research for America’s Voice, FWD.us, and the Immigration Hub, researchers put the Democratic and Republican immigration narratives up against each other in a head-to-head. 

Even after months of “Biden border crisis” hype from the right wing media ecosystem (and too many in the mainstream media), voters prefer the Democrats’ approach: 

  • 55% say it’s best to “build a functioning immigration system that processes people in a fair, orderly, and humane way;” 
  • 45% favor “more border security, more border patrol agents, and crackdowns on illegal immigration.” 

See the poll memo here.

Democrats: deliver and you get most of the credit; fail and get most of the blame

The same battleground poll found approximately 70 percent of the public support a series of proposals to put millions of undocumented immigrants on pathways to citizenship. The polling memo states: “Democrats should push these debates to the fore as aggressively as possible and not let the immigration conversation be defined exclusively by the border.” 

The pollsters added a warning to Democrats that failure to lean in and define their vision and solutions would cede the ground to Republicans: “Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to take sole credit for action on the popular issue of providing citizenship to Dreamers, farmworkers, and TPS holders. However, if these efforts fail, Republicans will not be punished alone, and Democrats will share in the blame for an unsuccessful effort at reform. In particular, base Democrats who we need to show up in the 2022 midterms will be upset if undocumented immigrants remain vulnerable to deportation.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: 

As Tom Cotton and Fox News dust off their old soundbites and bullying tactics, Democrats need to lean into solutions, keep their promises and achieve a long overdue breakthrough on citizenship. 

There is broad bipartisan support for pathways to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers. That is why Republicans are not opposing the measures directly, but rather they are looking for excuses in hopes of undercutting Democratic resolve to cross the finish line this year.

Democrats are in charge. Democrats are in the majority. Democrats have to do more than try hard. They need to use every tool and every ounce of their power to produce breakthroughs that are popular with American voters and will improve people’s lives. That is true on jobs, care, climate and citizenship. 

Go big or go home.