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On Immigration, Trump Team is Flailing, Failing, and Motivated by Politics

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“Instead of changing course on his failed immigration policy, it’s looking more and more like Team Trump is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” – Douglas Rivlin

While covering immigration in the Trump administration offers an endless string of news, there’s a consistent theme that runs through all the busy developments: all of what we’re seeing is evidence of an administration that is failing and flailing on immigration.

Trump and Co.’s deterrence-only policies have failed and dramatically worsened the humanitarian and refugee crisis at the border, yet they refuse to course correct or adopt a new approach like any other sane administration would. Why? In large part because Trump and his team are obsessed with Trump’s political brand on immigration and are desperately worried that the public and his nativist base will, rightfully, recognize that Trump is a failure and a hypocrite on his signature issue. And there is new polling evidence that Trump and Stephen Miller’s approach to immigration is repelling, not attracting voters.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Communication Director of America’s Voice: “Instead of changing course on his failed immigration policy, it’s looking more and more like Team Trump is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Trump doesn’t need a new immigration czar, his agencies don’t need a blank check or unlimited personnel, Trump needs a new direction and a new strategy that departs from his failed deterrence-only approach. Instead, they are embracing the definition of insanity by doing more of the failed same, while we see mounting evidence of its toll on real lives and Trump’s political standing.”

Among the reminders of the failed strategies and desperate and political motivations include:

  • The announcement of Ken Cuccinelli as immigration czar is a perfect embodiment of Trump’s continuing failure and motivations. As is the very fact he thinks he needs an immigration czar – instead of a new approach, he’s prioritizing another spokesperson to  go on TV to blame Democrats and act as a campaign surrogate. Anything to distract from the administration’s abject failure at the border or help Trump bolster his “border hardliner” image for the 2020 campaign.
  • Overcrowding and inhuman conditions: reminders of Trump’s failures and resultant chaos: Trump’s CBP is shutting down the nation’s largest processing center in McAllen, TX, due to a flu outbreak, soon after 16-year Carlos Hernandez Vásquez from Guatemala died after being housed there. Eyewitness reports from the facility detail, “sick children coughing and feverish at the over-crowded processing center — where hundreds of people are kept together in fenced pens, frigid holding cells or sleep outside in the parking lot.” Meanwhile, there are a record-high number of detainees in ICE custody; thousands of detainees being held in solitary confinement; and reports that asylum seekers will be forced to wait in Mexico for up to a year rather than the 45 days they were originally told. All evidence of chaos emanating from a failed strategy.
  • Throwing more good money after bad strategy and shifting personnel and resources from rest of federal government: The administration is seeking to shift TSA personnel and resources to the border – much like they have done with the Pentagon budget and members of the military – while asking Congress for billions of new money to deal with the crisis they helped create, all while refusing to adapt their failed strategy (For more, read this assessment from DHS Watch on the many reasons why more money for detention should be rejected in the supplemental appropriations request currently being considered by Congress).

Of note, we also are seeing growing evidence that Trump’s immigration policy failures and xenophobia are already backfiring politically: Despite the desperate and endless attempts of the Trump White House to try and deploy the issue to their political benefit, the American people are seeing through the strategy and embracing an alternate immigration vision:

  • New CBS News polling finds Trump’s immigration approval rating is underwater by a 22 percentage point margin at 38-60 percent – the lowest issue approval on any of the four issues tested in the poll.
  • New polling of Colorado, Michigan, and Pennsylvania voters, commissioned by the Immigration Hub and conducted by Change Research, finds overwhelming support for legislation offering Dreamers and TPS-holders citizenship, with 74% of Colorado voters, 71% of Pennsylvania voters, and 78% percent of Michigan voters (including strong majorities of independents and voters from swing counties in those states) voicing support.
  • As we noted yesterday, Priorities USA polling in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin finds that xenophobia is backfiring on Trump, driving away more voters in these states than it attracts (the same dynamic that happened in the 2018 midterms, when Trump made the homestretch a referendum on the migrant caravan and Republicans lost bigly).