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Meeting GOP Demands Will Not Deliver an Orderly Border, Diminish Chaos, or Provide Political Benefits for Democrats

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Washington, DC — Some reports indicate White House and Senate negotiators are moving closer to a deal on immigration and asylum components of a larger supplemental funding package. Below are our updated thoughts on how and why the White House seems to be getting both the policy and politics wrong – and why Democrats observing the negotiations shouldn’t go along with this push in its current format.

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

“Delivering on Republicans’ range of permanent immigration policy demands won’t deliver an orderly border, won’t stop GOP anti-immigrant attacks in 2024 and won’t meet the American public’s desire for a balanced solution on immigration. The deal as it is being reported threatens to dampen enthusiasm among core segments of the Democratic electorate, including Latinos, younger voters, women, progressives, and immigrants who are generally repelled by overtly anti-immigrant policies. Making all of it worse, the potential deal also threatens to set up Republicans’ favorite immigration negotiating sequence, where they move the goalposts and won’t get to yes in the House. This means that even through the lens of supporting our allies in Ukraine, the damaging immigration measures offered up might not even clinch the deal. Furthermore, it will refocus attention away from the stark reality that Republicans are divided on supporting the fight to preserve democracy against Putin’s aggression. We urge Democrats to not follow through on this damaging trajectory.”

The policies on the table would add to border chaos and pressures

The permanent policy changes on the table would be the most restrictive in decades, including renewed detention of kids, nationwide “expedited removal” (abbreviated deportations with limited access to legal counsel all over the country) and the end of legal parole programs. Leading policy experts and even DHS staff are saying these changes would compound, rather than alleviate, border pressures and chaos.

As a NBC News article, “Border policies under consideration could overwhelm system, DHS officials warn,” notes:

“Department of Homeland Security officials are warning about the impact of policies being discussed in negotiations between the White House and Congress that would increase deportations, deny many migrants the right to seek asylum and make detention mandatory, according to current and former officials who spoke to NBC News.

‘It would break the border,’ one current Homeland Security official predicted. ‘It would be completely counterproductive,’ another warned.

The second official noted that Customs and Border Protection detention centers, as well as those of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would quickly become so full that the agencies would be unable to keep apprehending migrants as they crossed the southern border. ‘Border Patrol would essentially have to take a knee and watch them walk by,’ the second official said.”

As Jason Houser, former Chief of Staff at ICE said on a press call last week regarding proposed permanent and deterrence-focused immigration policy changes: “In the history of the Department of Homeland Security and larger flows of migrants at the southern border, there has never been data that has shown that these sort of measures or reforms would stop or deter … a migrant’s calculus to come to the southern border.”

Misreading public sentiment and the political way forward

Yes, the politics of immigration are challenging to navigate for Biden and Democrats. But the political way forward shouldn’t involve delivering on key elements of the Donald Trump and Stephen Miller wishlist. Broadly, the public wants reform instead of the status quo on immigration issues, yet their desire for an orderly system and border security does not translate into majority support for deterrence- or enforcement-only approaches, slashing legal immigration, or embracing Trump-style proposals:

  • Americans support a balanced immigration approach, not enforcement-only restrictions on the table. As The Immigration Hub highlights, relying on a series of public polls: “The majority of voters in America are pro-immigrant and pro-orderliness,” and support a balanced approach to border security and immigration (read their full memo with detailed polling analysis). 
  • Latino voters’ immigration priorities are at odds with the enforcement-only policies on the table. Ongoing and detailed Unidos.US polling of Latino voters underscores that their immigration views are decidedly in favor of a balanced approach, with elements like a path to citizenship a high priority and enforcement-only provisions ranking at bottom. See HERE

Vanessa Cárdenas concluded:

“Delivering on Republicans’ extreme demands won’t win you more voters, nor will it slow the GOP immigration attacks – and could cost you the support of some voters you already have. The GOP’s cynical politics and lopsided demands shouldn’t dictate the confines of an immigration debate no matter how badly you need to overcome Republican opposition to defending Ukraine. Any broad conversation about fundamentally restructuring our post World- War II commitment to asylum and refugees or the broader immigration system should take place via regular order and with a full range of policies on the table.”