Biden faces complex immigration juggle as election approaches

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border are cited by many Americans as their top election concern.

  • Author, Bernd Debusmann Jr.
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

US President Joe Biden has pledged not to “play politics” with the southern border and immigration – a potentially daunting challenge as the US heads towards November’s presidential election.

Mr. Biden’s comments come on what he called a “good day” in which he announced an executive order to protect hundreds of thousands of undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation and to allow them to work in the United States.

His actions, however, drew criticism from Republicans and some of his Democratic colleagues, forcing the president into a complex juggling act.

Polls show that a majority of voters view immigration as one of the most important issues facing the country — a fact that makes Mr. Biden’s stated desire to be apolitical on the issue difficult.

The new executive action announced Tuesday by the administration was widely welcomed by anti-immigration activists and Democrats, many of whom hailed it as the most significant relief package for undocumented migrants already in the United States since that the Obama administration announced Deferred Action for Children. Arrivals, or Daca, in 2012.

The chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), California Democrat Nanette Barragán, hailed the decision as a “happy day” for immigrant families, who “can go to sleep tonight knowing that their loved ones will go nowhere go “.

But this latest move stands in stark contrast to the sweeping immigration order issued in early June, which allows authorities to quickly expel migrants entering the United States illegally without processing their asylum claims.

The executive actions – spaced over a period of just two weeks – highlighted the complex tightrope Mr. Biden finds himself on on this issue.

“Biden still finds himself in a difficult situation,” Republican strategist Doug Heye told the BBC. “Whatever he does, he will be criticized. This is a perfect example.

“He’s not doing well with Hispanic voters, so he’s trying to make a move to attract a lot of votes.” But it can also cost him votes,” he added. “It is, by definition, a mixed message.”

The asylum restrictions announced June 5, now the subject of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, have been widely criticized by immigration advocates and even some Democratic allies of Mr. Biden.

In a statement, the CHC called the order “deeply concerning” and symptomatic of law enforcement strategies that have “repeatedly proven ineffective” and created “chaos” at the border.

Spokespeople for Donald Trump, Mr. Biden’s Republican challenger, condemned both actions as a move toward “amnesty” for undocumented workers.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Mr. Biden has been criticized on immigration from the left flank of his party, notably by Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

While the number of migrant arrivals and detentions at the U.S.-Mexico border has declined this year after reaching historic highs under the Biden administration, polls continue to show widespread concern on the issue .

A May Gallup poll found that 18% of American voters see immigration as their top issue, up from 27% in April, the third month in a row it has topped the list of concerns.

Polls this year have repeatedly shown that many voters trust Trump more on immigration and borders than Mr. Biden.

One such poll, released by Decision Desk HQ and NewsNation in May, found that 46% of voters think Trump is the better candidate on these issues, compared to just 26% for Mr. Biden.

Another 13% said they weren’t sure.

A more recent survey by YouGov and CBS, the BBC’s US partner, found that a majority of registered voters, 62%, supported a national program to deport all undocumented immigrants in the US – an oft-repeated promise from the Trump campaign.

The poll also found that mass evictions are popular with Hispanic voters, with 53 percent saying they would support such a measure.

Mr. Heye, the Republican strategist, said polling numbers suggest immigration is a winning issue for the Trump campaign and in races for congressional seats.

“Republicans believe they can win on this issue, and they believe they can win some Hispanic voters as well,” he added. “The center has moved to the right on this issue.”

Maca Casado, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, told BBC News that on immigration, Republicans “have made it clear that they just want chaos and partisan politics, as usual.”

Mr. Biden “knows that being president is not about theater – it’s about taking action on the issues that matter most to our communities,” she added.

It’s clear that Mr. Biden’s recent actions will help assuage some of voters’ unease over immigration, but some strategists have cautious perceptions that could change significantly between now and the November election.

Democratic strategist Ameshia Cross said the lack of any meaningful immigration reform in Congress, largely due to Republican opposition, will allow the president to show that his “hands are tied” and that his executive actions have contributed to the decline in the number of migrants.

“The Republicans have blocked this project several times. The only tool the president has is executive actions,” Ms. Cross said. “Obviously there are going to be progressive leaders…and Latino legislators who disagree with this.” »

Ms. Cross added that Democrats and independents concerned about Mr. Biden’s immigration policies may have to “compromise” to help propel a Biden victory. No prospect of reform would be possible under Mr. Trump, she added.

“Either they come to the table and are willing to make this happen, or they don’t and fight to elect more people who believe like they do,” she said. “Right now, the numbers are just not in their favor.”

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