Immigration becomes a political issue again as elections approach

WASHINGTON — U.S. agents arrested a record 2 million undocumented immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border this year and 1 million entered legally to seek asylum, making immigration policy and enforcement a political flashpoint ahead of the midterm elections.

Public polls show the public is split along partisan lines with Republican-leaning citizens favoring law enforcement and deportation, and those voting Democrats favoring asylum seekers and deportation. citizenship for so-called Dreamers, those brought here illegally as children.

But a majority of Americans want tougher enforcement, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

With the election as a backdrop, Republican governors in Florida, Texas and Arizona sent asylum seekers to Democratic cities in New York, Massachusetts and Washington – a tactic that has delighted supporters of the GOP and garnered scorn from Democrats.

President Joe Biden condemned the Republicans’ political year tactics as “playing politics with human beings, using them as props.” He made the comments at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual gala

In Florida, Jared Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law, was asked about the use of asylum seekers as “political pawns” by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who, along with Donald Trump, is eyeing the presidential race in Florida. 2024.

DeSantis defended the tactic and political ramification of pointing out the problem to voters.

“That’s where the Republicans have the edge,” DeSantis told talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News.

Stress on the southern border

There is no doubt that the Southwest Border and Federal Agents are under pressure.

There have been 2.4 million arrests of people entering the country this year, including 2.1 million along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

That’s a record number, Customs Commissioner Chris Magnus said. There were 1.3 million deportations.

The influx of migrants is partly due to Latin American refugees fleeing persecution from communist regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, who entered the United States and legally sought asylum or protection from deportation. , and await their hearings.

Due to a backlog of cases, the process can take up to seven years.

Magnus said people “fleeing repressive regimes pose significant challenges for treatment and deportation”.

He also noted a decrease in economic immigrants on the southwestern border. Magnus attributed this to the efforts of the Biden administration.

“The number of incoming migrants from Mexico and northern Central America has declined for the third consecutive month, as the Biden-Harris administration works with our partners in the region to address the root causes of the migration,” Magnus said in a statement accompanying the new figures released.

Attacks “open borders”

Republicans have strongly criticized Biden’s efforts as failed “open borders” policies.

“His amnesty program and open border policies have led to record illegal immigration and, with it, an unchecked deluge of drugs into the United States,” wrote U.S. Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla. , of the National Republican Senate Committee. president, in an op-ed in the Washington Times.

Attacks on Biden administration policies by Republican leaders have led GOP candidates, including Nevada’s Adam Laxalt, to adopt these tactics in a race that has so far been defined by economic hardship, inflation and the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the right to abortion. .

Republicans highlighted the issue to boost grassroots voters in 2018, when they lost control of the House and Senate, and in 2020, when they lost the presidency.

“We have already seen this film. Like clockwork, with every election the GOP tries to politicize immigration, and the unveiling of its latest anti-immigrant agenda is no different,’ said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of Immigration Hub, a group of defense.

Biden administration officials say the record number of arrests proves the border is not open, as Republicans claim.

Disgruntled Democrats

Still, Democrats in competitive races have been stymied by the Biden administration’s handling of the immigration issue.

Some resented the administration’s slow response early in the president’s term when immigrants and refugees were herded along the border and crowded into border state detention centers.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invoked Title 42, a US law to combat disease pandemics that requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico until their case is appealed.

Biden kept the Trump-era rule, modified for small children and the like, in place, but decided to lift it as the pandemic subsided.

About half a dozen Democratic senators in competitive races, including Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, initially urged the Biden administration not to immediately lift Title 42, fearing the administration was unprepared to handle a push to the border.

They demanded a detailed plan, which officials produced, to ease the public health rule and deal with migrants.

Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have opposed the Biden administration’s plans to speed up the process for asylum seekers, saying a majority would not be eligible for protected status and would remain in the United States illegally.

Apply for asylum legally

Meanwhile, a wave of asylum seekers have already entered the country legally and are waiting for immigration judges to hear their cases.

The Republican governors of Arizona, Texas and Florida sent some to Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in the District of Columbia, New York, and to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

In one case, the political coup could backfire. DeSantis received backlash from conservative Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans in South Florida, supportive of refugees fleeing dictatorships and repressive governments.

Nonetheless, the rush of newcomers being dispatched by Republican governors to Democratic-controlled northern cities prompted New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, both Democrats, to seek the help from the federal government and to use the National Guard.

Despite the disagreement over policy tactics, the governors all cite the need for the federal government to step up, to enforce federal immigration law with taxpayer dollars.

Unsurprisingly, the public agrees with officials and is divided along partisan lines over how best to resolve the decades-old dilemma.

Overall, 73% of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center last month said strengthening border security should be a top priority in US immigration policy.

A large majority, 91%, of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said border security should be an important goal, while 59% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents ranked it a top priority for the immigration policy.

A majority of respondents from both major political parties, 72%, supported the US taking in refugees from countries where people are fleeing war and violence, although more Democrats (85%) than Republicans ( 58%) said so.

The survey also found that 72% said an important immigration goal should be to enable people who were illegally brought into the country as children to apply for and obtain citizenship.

The Pew Research Center survey was conducted August 1-14 and included 7,647 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

Although leaders from both political parties agree that the current system of immigration laws is outdated, Congress has failed to pass an immigration reform bill that would update the process of legal immigration, as well as the fight against illegal immigration.

Contact Gary Martin at [email protected] Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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