Will the Architect of Trump’s Immigration Radicalism Own Up to the Fact that it has Backfired Politically?
This afternoon, Stephen Miller will join Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh on a press call for the media. It is widely assumed that the Dark Prince is furious about yesterday’s Wall Street Journal story that suggests Trump is downplaying immigration, in part because it’s now a losing issue for him. Today we expect Miller to strain to put a whole lot of lipstick on a whole lot of pig.
Below, we offer up five key points as context for the Miller press call:
- Miller is the architect of an immigration record that is toxic to key 2020 voters. The exchange at the final presidential debate over family separation was revealing. Unlike in 2016, when Trump was on offense on immigration, Trump was on defense. He did what he typically does, which is to lie, blame-shift and both-sides the issue. He ended his defense with the chilling statement that the children are in beautiful facilities and are “well taken care of.” As AV Executive Director Frank Sharry told the Wall Street Journal, “A lot of the suburban voters who’ve turned from Trump cite the separation of kids from their parents at the border.”
- The Trump/Miller reliance on racism and xenophobia is backfiring outside the Trump base. While immigration mobilizes white grievance voters who are the core of Trump’s support, it also mobilizes a majority in opposition to his cruelty and divisiveness. The most compelling proof point: the 2018 midterms. Trump nationalized the race with his relentless and ugly focus on “criminals and caravans” and it resulted in the biggest midterm defeat in American history. In 2020, Trump is attacking Joe Biden in ads and rallies as someone who “supports amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants.” But a battleground poll by GSG finds that the attacks are not landing. Few voters, and even fewer swing voters, feel this attack raises doubts about voting for Biden, even though many believe the line to be true. According to GSG, “that’s because voters largely support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”
- Trump has forced Americans to choose, and the public has never been this pro-immigrant. According to Gallup, more Americans than ever – 77% – believe immigration is a good thing rather than a bad thing for America. And for the first time since 1965, more Americans support an increase in immigration than a decrease. According to Pew, 60% of Americans say that “growing numbers of newcomers to the U.S. strengthen American society” in 2020, an increase of 14 percentage points from the 46% who said so in 2016. Similarly, 2020 Biden voters are more likely than 2016 Clinton voters to say the growing number of newcomers strengthens society (84% vs. 71%). According to PRRI’s annual American Values Survey poll, Americans support legal status for undocumented immigrants by 80-19%, and majorities oppose Trump policies on family separation, Dreamers, refugee admissions and the border wall. According to recent NYT/Siena College polls in states such as Georgia, Iowa, and Texas, more than two-thirds of voters support “a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States,” with support from Democrats overwhelming.
- Trump’s border wall project has raided money from military families and become mired in corruption allegations and cost overruns. This was published today. “A ProPublica/Texas Tribune review of federal spending data shows more than 200 contract modifications, at times awarded within just weeks or months after the original contracts, have increased the cost of the border wall project by billions of dollars since late 2017. This is particularly true this year, in the run-up to next week’s election. The cost of supplemental agreements and change orders alone — at least $2.9 billion — represents about a quarter of all the money awarded and more than what Congress originally appropriated for wall construction in each of the last three years …. Experts say the frequent use of so-called supplemental agreements to add work or increase the price has amounted to giving no-bid contracts to a small group of pre-selected construction firms, many with executives who have donated to Trump or other Republicans.”
- A Trump second term immigration agenda would be even more cruel. A story in The Guardian highlights that Miller is “said to have a drawer full of executive orders ready to be signed in ‘shock and awe’ style if Trump is re-elected … this wishlist was reserved for the second term because it included policies that were too unpopular for a president seeking re-election.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Stephen Miller’s place in history is cemented. He will be forever known as the evil architect of sadistic policies and the mastermind of a racist political strategy that drove voters away from Trump and into the arms of Democrats. Today, he seems to be rushing to defend his work and his ideology. Too late. The world knows who you are, and we know what you’ve done. History, and the multiracial majority of Americans who reject your cruelty and cynicism, will never forget.”