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If Trump Decides to End DACA and Restart Family Separation, His Cruel Policies Will Backfire Politically

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As Big Decisions Loom, Polls Show Strong Support for Dreamers and Strong Opposition to Family Separation

Following recent bombshell court decisions, the Trump administration faces two major decisions on what next for DACA and family separations.

  1. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of DACA, will the administration reopen the popular program or try to end it again? (read more on the DACA decisions to come following the recent SCOTUS ruling here) 
  2. Following a decision by District Court Judge Dolly Gee that ICE must release children being held in family detention centers, will the Trump administration release families from detention? Or will they quickly try to deport the families or coerce the parents into allowing their children to be ripped away and released on their own, or confined in facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks? (read more on what’s next following Judge Gee’s ruling here)

On both issues, the sensible policy option matches both the morally right choice and where the overwhelming preference of the American public lies. See the polling roundup below.

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

On DACA and family separation, the American public opposes Trump by significant margins. They strongly favor measures to protect those with DACA, and they strongly oppose separating little kids from their parents. But Trump, egged on by his immigration whisperer, Stephen Miller, is more interested in stoking white backlash than reaching out to the middle. That’s why we fear that Trump will move to end DACA, once again, and will move to separate families, once again.

Trump is a one-note president running on a relentless strategy of divisive race-baiting and xenophobia. While many point to his success with that strategy in 2016, far fewer point to the fact that his caravans-and-criminals strategy backfired so badly in 2018 it led to the biggest midterm drubbing in American history.

We fear for immigrant youth and immigrant families. But we don’t fear his us-versus-them politics. If Trump ends DACA and restarts family separations, he will continue to build the wall. No, not that wall. The wall between his core supporters in a whites-only cul-de-sac and the emerging multiracial majority disgusted by his divisiveness, cruelty and cynicism.

In the coming days, we will see if Trump, yet again, defies the will of the voters and electoral common sense.

Below is a snapshot of polls and analysis on DACA and family separation:


  • 72-19% support for Dreamers’ citizenship among voters in 12 battleground 2020 states (Global Strategy Group polling on behalf of The Immigration Hub, America’s Voice, and FWD.us, June 2020). The GSG poll found that voters back citizenship for Dreamers by a 72-19% margin. This included strong majorities of Democrats (88-7%), Independents (69-13%) and Republicans (57-33%).
  • More than a dozen other polls are remarkably consistent in finding that approximately 4 out of 5 Americans, including a strong majority of Republicans, support Dreamers. The GSG poll echoes other DACA and Dreamer polls in recent years that find that Americans overwhelmingly support Dreamers. See this recent poll roundup for a detailed look at polls and related findings and links.
  • Overwhelming opposition to family separations and high intensity on issue in “Nationscape Project” massive sample polling. In December 2019, The Upshot in the New York Times showcased findings from the Democracy Fund and UCLA’s “Nationscape Project” — a massive-sample of opinions from 110,000 people nationwide on more than 50 issues. The polling found that the single top-ranked priority issue among Democrats of more than 50 issues tested was “don’t separate immigrant children at southern border,” and that 92% of Democrats opposed this policy. Among Independents, it ranked as the second-most important issue for independents and 84% of independents opposed family separation. Meanwhile, 54% of Republicans opposed family separations as well.
  • FiveThirtyEight polling summary: Two-thirds of Americans and half of Republicans oppose family separation policy: FiveThirtyEight analysis found 64-25% opposition to family separation policy when combining the findings from June 2018 polling from CBS News, Quinnipiac, CNN, and Ipsos. As the analysis noted, the polls “found that about two-thirds of the American public oppose the policy…in the partisan era in which we live, it’s noteworthy that Trump’s policy has only about half of Republicans on board.”
  • Political analysts and internal GOP polling: family separation hurt Republicans in 2018 midterms, especially among suburban women. In September 2018, the Associated Press’s Julie Pace referenced an “internal GOP poll obtained by The Associated Press,” which found that “Trump’s approval rating among independents in congressional battleground districts dropped 10 points between June and August. A GOP official who oversaw the survey attributed the drop to negative views of Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the White House’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.” In July 2018, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar wrote that the “family separation border policy badly hurt Rs with suburban women, some of whom voted for Trump in ‘16.” He added that “in the roller-coaster ride that is the Trump presidency, this has been a disastrous summer for Republicans. The backlash against his administration’s draconian family-separation policy cost the party support among moderate suburbanites.”
  • Political operatives and analysts: Trump’s xenophobia backfired in the 2018 midterms. According to Republican pollster David Winston: “The closing focus in the final days of the campaign was on the immigration/caravan message, popular with the base and those at President Trump’s rallies but also controversial and divisive, particularly with independents. The people who made their decision over the last few days voted Democratic by a 12-point margin.” Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg  wrote following the midterms: “Democrats made big gains because Mr. Trump declared war on immigrants — and on multicultural America — and lost. Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent put it this way: Because Trump won in 2016, pundits remain reluctant to acknowledge that this anti-immigrant demagoguery has been unsuccessfully wielded by an extraordinarily long series of failed GOP campaigns in the three years since.”