tags: Press Releases

What We Hope to Hear from President Biden During Thursday’s Border and Immigration Address

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Washington, DC — On Thursday, President Biden and Donald Trump are scheduled to visit sections of the southern border in Texas to deliver immigration and border remarks.

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

“The dueling border trips on Thursday presents an opportunity for President Biden to offer a sharp contrast between two distinct visions of the kind of country we want to be. Our hope is that he will center his visit on outlining a vision for a functional system that serves our interests and holds true to our values as a nation defined by immigrants and immigration.

Donald Trump will no doubt point to the border as a nexus of crime and destruction, proposing extreme measures such as mass roundups and relying on dangerous rhetoric such as his claim that immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood of the nation.’ President Biden has the chance to address concerns at the border and, more importantly, be clear about his vision of how an orderly, secure border is part of a functional system for legal immigration and legal status for long-settled immigrants – which are all common sense measures the majority of Americans support.”

As America’s Voice recently assessed, Donald Trump’s immigration policy vision and efforts to stoke fear and division using immigration are dangerous well beyond immigrant communities. While we can expect more of the same ugly Trump remarks on Thursday, President Biden’s scheduled speech provides the opportunity for a conversation about real solutions. Ahead of the speech and in light of our recent guidance for how Democrats should address immigration at a time of high salience and public concern over the border, this is how we think Biden and Democrats can take the initiative on immigration, and what we hope to hear from President Biden on Thursday and beyond:

  1. Lean in and don’t duck the immigration issue. Immigration is a top-of-mind issue for many voters. Rather than ignoring the issue and creating a vacuum that Republicans fill or adopting Republican framing, President Biden must lead in this moment by engaging in this conversation with humanity and solutions. The best defense is a good offense on immigration, and Republicans have left themselves vulnerable after years of talking about immigration and years of blocking any and all policies to address the issue, including the recent tanking of bipartisan legislation Republicans had been demanding before opposing.
  2. Call out GOP extremism and preference for maintaining immigration and the border as a perpetual political issue rather than addressing the issue with serious solutions. Of note, the Biden campaign seems to have adopted this approach over the weekend in reacting to Trump’s dark CPAC speech, noting that Trump helped sabotage the bipartisan border/asylum bill that included mostly Republican priorities. Trump’s articulation of massive round-ups, red state armies, and adoption of deadly white nationalist rhetoric are liabilities for the former President and opportunities for the current one. MAGA-level extremism works to attract MAGA-level opponents of immigration, but it hasn’t worked or has backfired on Republicans in most races over the last several election cycles. Biden should emphasize their reliance on white nationalist conspiracies tied to real-world deadly violence and threats to our democracy, as well as Trump’s dangerous and catastrophic plans to purge long-settled immigrants in America and devastate our economy.
  3. Outline a “both/and” vision on immigration that addresses public concern over an orderly border and embraces a broader set of popular solutions on topics such as legal immigration and support for long-settled immigrants. President Biden should articulate a plan that couples an orderly border with strong support for citizenship and broader reforms to create a system that benefits the American people. This “both/and” approach includes not only measures to promote an orderly border, but also legal immigration pathways and access to a fair, fast, and accurate asylum system alongside policies that recognize the durable public support for citizenship for Dreamers and other long-settled immigrants.

Yes, the American public wants action instead of the broken status quo and perpetual obstruction. But simply adopting Republican frames and border backdrops is not the way the Biden administration should show they are meeting the public’s concerns. Republicans have blocked the funding needed to support fast and fair asylum processing and support for American cities welcoming newcomers and the GOP remains hostile to such popular policies as DACA and support for Dreamers and strengthening legal immigration pathways. The President should be making that clear while also broadening the conversation from just the border to also talk about the attack on DACA and Dreamers from Republicans, the attacks on legal immigration including new legal pathways that reduce border pressures, the attacks on faith-based groups that help immigrants, and Republicans’ long-standing opposition to legal status, TPS, or work permits for immigrants that have lived and worked for decades in the U.S.