tags: Press Releases

The Politics, Policy, and Public Opinion to Keep in Mind Over the Holidays Re. Capitol Hill Immigration Negotiations

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Washington, DC – As elected officials and many observers head home for the holidays, below are a few reminders about ongoing supplemental funding negotiations and our take on the politics, policy, and public opinion:

  1. On politics, embracing Republicans’ demands wouldn’t ratchet down the GOP’s 2024 anti-immigrant attacks but would alienate key voting constituencies.
  2. On public opinion: The policies on the table don’t meet the American public’s immigration sentiments and do blur important contrasts.
  3. On policies: The details of what’s on the table threaten to add to border chaos and pressures and should not be short-handed as “border security.”

Below, we highlight each of the above points following this statement from Vanessa Cárdenas, America’s Voice Executive Director: 

“Delivering on Republicans’ extreme demands won’t slow the GOP immigration attacks in the 2024 cycle and threatens to alienate core Democratic voters. At the same time, the GOP preferred policy options are inconsistent with what the majority of American voters want, namely an orderly and compassionate immigration system. A responsible and comprehensive reform-oriented immigration debate should take place in Congress during regular order and not solely rely on the lopsided and extreme demands of a GOP trying to use immigration as a campaign tool and seemingly intent to again move the immigration goalposts to distract attention from their divide over the fight against Putin.”

Point 1: On politics, embracing Republicans’ demands wouldn’t ratchet down the GOP’s 2024 anti-immigrant attacks but would alienate key voting constituencies.

Giving in to Republicans’ extreme policy demands in the misguided notion it will alter the political trajectory or aid Biden and Democrats’ political standing gets it wrong.

  • No matter the concessions to Republicans, the GOP will continue to run hard on ugly and false anti-immigrant politics in 2024. The goalposts on immigration are always on roller skates when it comes to Republicans so even if you get past Senate Republicans by conceding everything, House Republicans are likely to ask for more. Regardless of the policy details, Donald Trump will slam any deal as insufficiently anti-immigrant and will signal to the MAGA-enthralled GOP that the deal is too weak, even if to many observers, these appear to be the strictest new restrictions on legal immigration in a century. Attaching unrelated immigration measures to the Ukraine aid also shifts the political focus away from Republican divides over how far to increase deportations and restrict immigration, while also masking the GOP’s open support for Putin and authoritarianism instead of democracy. Meanwhile, remember that Republicans’ reliance on ugly nativism hasn’t been the electoral silver bullet they have long promised (see our 2022 political report here for details).
  • Giving in to Republicans’ immigration demands threatens to dampen enthusiasm among core parts of the Democratic coalition, including Latinos. Democrats should avoid the trap that is being set for them. Delivering a win for the anti-immigrant agenda won’t stop the political attacks and the policies will not deliver more order or control at the border (in fact, that will get worse), but it does undermine the sharp contrast and clear lack of workable solutions from the other side of the aisle that moves American voters to support Democrats. The balanced approach – not the extreme one – is favored by most voters. There is a danger especially of  alienating key segments of the Biden/Democratic electoral coalition including Latinos (see detailed and ongoing UnidosUS polling of Latino voters and their views and priorities on immigration).
  • Some ideas on the table, like the “border shutdown trigger,” are bad policy and even worse politics. To pull just one example, the idea of a “border shutdown trigger” would be operationally and substantively bad policy (see FWD.us analysis here) and even worse politics, creating “a constant boom and bust cycle, defined by looming fear and confusion, and revered by those that want to fearmonger over the border in perpetuity,” as FWD.us stated, turning “every week into border week,” according to FWD.us President Todd Schulte.

Point 2: On public opinion: The policies on the table don’t meet the American public’s immigration sentiments or desire for lasting “immigration reform” and do blur important contrasts.

A majority of 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, drastically escalating detention and deportation or embracing Trump-style proposals. A broader bipartisan immigration reform is overdue and should take place via regular order and with a full range of policies on the table – not shoehorned into a supplemental funding debate and with a lopsided,  GOP-only set of demands. Notably:

  • 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 tableUnidosUS and 17 other Latino civil rights and advocacy organizations yesterday issued a letter to President Biden that noted, “Like their fellow Americans, Latinos want a secure and well-managed border. Yet we are deeply alarmed by recent reports that indicate that your administration is open to expanding the ability to carry out rapid deportations in the United States and significantly restricting the ability to access asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.” Ongoing and detailed UnidosUS 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 the bottom.

Point 3: On policies: The details of what’s on the table threaten to add to border chaos and pressures and should not be short-handed as “border security.”

The permanent policy changes being demanded would be the most restrictive in a century according to many observers including renewed detention of kids, nationwide “expedited removal” (abbreviated deportations with limited access to legal counsel all over the country), the end of legal parole programs and a “border shutdown trigger.” Leading policy experts and even DHS staff are saying these changes would compound, rather than alleviate, border pressures and chaos and should not be short-handed as “border security.” Of note:

“it could not be clearer that the current immigration negotiations in Washington, D.C., are dangerously divorced from the migratory realities shaping the U.S.-Mexico border today and for the foreseeable future. Seemingly obsessed with a narrow focus on U.S. border policy, policymakers run the risk of missing yet another opportunity to actually lower and bring order to the historic levels of human mobility unfolding around the globe and particularly in our closest neighbors across Latin America and the Caribbean.”

  • And as Dara Lind of the American Immigration Council points out in this helpful Twitter/X thread, the current back-ups at ports of entry like Eagle Pass demonstrate why border infrastructure is key to managing the border, like the proposed investments in border infrastructure in the supplemental emergency budget package currently being filibustered by Republicans. She observes:

“In general, if there were resources being put to investing in permanent processing infrastructure, it would be easier to manage the border both for people seeking asylum and for everyone else who crosses!

Conversely, _there’s no additional enforcement that doesn’t cost resources to implement._ If you increase enforcement without upping resources, you just have options that aren’t being used.

There is no cheat code! There is just investment! Sorry!”