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Breakthrough: Biden Runs Ad on Family Separation

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New House Judiciary Committee Report on family separation concludes policy has been “marked by reckless incompetence and intentional cruelty”

The Biden-Harris campaign has released a powerful new ad today on family separation. It is morally the right thing to do. It also signals a remarkable shift in the immigration debate, with Democrats leaning in and going on offense, while Trump and the GOP are being thrown on the defensive on their signature issue. 

Not long ago, many Democrats viewed immigration as a wedge issue that worked against them. The GOP wielded it as a dog-whistle to mobilize their base and peel off swing voters. Infamously, in 2007 Rahm Emanuel called immigration “the third rail of American politics.” He added, “It captures all the American people’s anger and frustration…This is a big problem.”

Now, just days before the most important election of our lives, Democrats are leaning in and advertising on an issue they once feared.

The new ad prominently features the exchange at the final presidential debate between Trump and Biden over family separation. Biden’s remarks: “Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated … now they can’t find over 500 sets of these parents … it’s criminal!” Trump’s chilling response: the separated children were “well taken care of” in “facilities that were so clean.” 

The Biden campaign’s focus on family separation arrives as the House Judiciary Committee today released the findings of their nearly two-year long investigation into family separation. The report, “The Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy: Trauma, Destruction, and Chaos,” describes the Trump administration policy as “marked by reckless incompetence and intentional cruelty.”

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

“Family separation is a sadistic policy that shocks Americans to their core. It embodies why Trump’s cruelty toward immigrants is toxic to the broad majority of Americans ready to turn the page on his presidency. 

As a policy matter, and at a minimum, we owe it to these families to reunite the kids with their parents here in the U.S. where they can live together in peace and safety. 

As a political matter, family separation is an issue that mobilizes progressives and drives droves of voters, including many suburban women, away from Trump and to the Democrats. For example, our recent battleground polling on immigration finds that family separation tops the list of issues that raise major doubts. It does so with 60% of swing voters. 

The conventional political wisdom for the past few decades has been that immigration is a winner for Republicans and a loser for Democrats. While it’s hard to discern how it unfolds, it just may be that we are witnessing a shifting of tectonic plates. Trump’s radicalism on immigration may excite his core supporters, but the backlash effect is even stronger. It mobilizes a multiracial majority in opposition. This is new. 

In my 40 years of working on refugee and immigration issues, I cannot recall any Democratic presidential candidate running an English-language ad on the issue of immigration. It shows that Democrats are willing to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. It’s a seachange in the politics of immigration, and paves the way for a seachange in the policies governing immigration.”