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Immigration and the General Election: The Stakes are Clear, the Contrasts Sharp

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Washington, DC — With immigration policy and politics remaining a dominant topic in the news, below are several key developments and assessments to our eyes from the past few days:

  • Senator Katie Britt’s xenophobic lies and demagoguery: The SOTU response by Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) – already widely panned and mocked – is now coming under additional fire for a series of xenophobic falsehoods she deployed that linked the story of a sex trafficking victim to President Biden’s border policies. As multiple fact-checkers have highlighted, they are entirely unrelated. Beyond just a single anecdote, the example of Sen. Britt’s falsehood highlights the larger trend of right-wing actors wielding immigration lies and misinformation as a key political strategy. 
  • Donald Trump spirals into an even uglier and unhinged anti-immigrant direction: It’s hard to believe there are continued depths left for Donald Trump/Stephen Miller on immigration, but the former President’s speech in Rome, GA, this weekend showed he is descending even further in a dangerous anti-immigrant direction. Among the lowlights included Trump’s continued exploitative politicization of the tragic killing of Laken Riley and his description of the rise of asylum seekers and migrants as leading to: “the agony of our people, the plunder of our cities, the sacking of our towns, the violation of our citizens and the conquest of our country.” Meanwhile, Trump’s pledged immigration policies for a second term are chilling and destructive (see AV’s recent report and analysis, “Trump’s 2025 Immigration Agenda.”)
  • On the Democratic side, it was good to see President Biden and his team express regret for his use of “illegal” at the State of the Union. The off-script exchange with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had overshadowed the many positive elements of the immigration portions of President Biden’s speech, including his embrace of a balanced vision for both an orderly border and popular policies like a pathway to citizenship and his condemnation of Trump’s “poisoning the blood of our country” vision. Of note, as Trump continues to remind Americans outside the MAGA base of his damaging plans, President Biden’s remarks included a strong affirmation about the positive and central role immigrants have played in the American story and he connected with the broad majority of the country that is open to the type of balanced, “both/and” vision that President Biden has outlined (see a deeper dive on immigration polling and public opinion here and check out fresh evidence from last week’s Wall Street Journal poll here). 
  • Texas judge rules against GOP effort to eviscerate Biden legal immigration programs that reduce border pressures: The Republican opposition to the Senate border bill that included many of their long-sought policy objectives drove home the point that, instead of seriously addressing the challenges, the GOP prefers immigration as a campaign issue and the border in as much chaos as possible. Further underscoring that point is the ongoing Republican-led effort to eviscerate humanitarian parole programs that provide legal pathways to migrants and reduce border pressures and chaos in the process. On Friday, a Texas federal judge ruled against the GOP states’ efforts challenging humanitarian parole. While the ruling will likely be appealed, it upholds an important positive immigration policy success of the Biden administration and offers a reminder of the larger significance of the related Republican opposition.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“The stakes and contrasts of this election are clear on immigration and how the issue is being used and misused as a political cudgel. Donald Trump and allies think the way to regain political power is through relentless, ugly lies and deploying race and immigration as a way to divide Americans and stoke fears. Yet, the sentiment of a strong majority of the country underscores the point that Americans don’t have to choose between maintaining an orderly border and living up to our country’s proud history as a nation strengthened by immigrants. In the face of Republican lies, exploitative ugliness, and transparent political gamesmanship, there remains an opportunity for President Biden and Democrats to draw forceful contrasts that better connect with the majority of the electorate than Trump’s dystopic and dangerous vision.”