Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Biden immigration decision could make midterm climate even tougher for Democrats

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Minutes after President Biden’s administration rescinded Trump-era pandemic restrictions along the U.S.-Mexico border that effectively blocked migrants from entering the U.S. to seek asylum, Republicans warned it would worsen the border crisis and potentially help deliver a GOP victory in the midterms.

The president’s move came after more than a year of pressure from fellow Democrats amid frustration with the inability to end a policy they view as illegal and cruel to those fleeing persecution.

But the order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift on May 23 what’s known as Title 42 could become another liability for the president and congressional Democrats who already face historical headwinds and an unfavorable political climate partially fueled by soaring inflation and skyrocketing gas prices. The Democrats are trying to maintain their razor-thin majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate in November’s midterm elections.


“Every Democrat will have to answer for the Biden administration’s decision to turn their border crisis into a border catastrophe,” National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair argued in a statement to Fox News minutes after the administration’s decision was reported.

Immigrants are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border Dec. 7, 2021, in Yuma, Arizona. 
(John Moore/Getty Images)

Former President Trump’s administration issued the order amid the coronavirus outbreak. It was used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to expel a majority of migrants at the border. While it is a public health order, not an immigration policy, it has become one of the central border policies in place as the U.S. faces a continuing crisis of numbers at the border. In February, approximately 55% of migrants were returned due to the order rather than being released into the U.S.

“Title 42 has been nothing short of disastrous for immigrant families seeking asylum from the horrors in their own countries,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last month. “It is unacceptable that this policy continues to be used indiscriminately to remove migrants with valid refugee claims from our Southern border.”


But with border crossings over the past year at historical highs, the GOP sees Friday’s move by the Biden administration as fresh ammunition on the campaign trail.

The NRCC, the House GOP re-election arm, has long viewed border security as a winning issue not only in competitive House districts along the nation’s southern border, but also across the country, not only with a GOP base that gets fired up over immigration and border security but among independent voters and even some Democrats.

“This is an American issue. I think it’s going to play everywhere,” NRCC chair Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota emphasized in an interview with Fox News in February. 

Mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents watch Haitian immigrants on the bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 20, 2021 as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. 
(John Moore/Getty Images)

The GOP needs a net gain of just five seats in the 435-member chamber in November to regain the House majority it lost in the 2018 midterms. Among the many targeted districts they’re hoping to flip are a handful of blue seats along the nation’s southern border in Texas and Arizona.


Senate Republicans need a net gain of just one seat in the 100-member chamber to win back the majority. And one of the Senate Democrats they view as vulnerable is freshman Mark Kelly of Arizona.

“Senate Democrats like Mark Kelly created this border crisis and have consistently voted against measures to secure the border,” National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokeswoman Katharine Cooksey claimed in a statement to Fox News. 

“Now they’re all powerless to stop Joe Biden from making the crisis even worse. American families are suffering because of Democrats’ reckless, open borders policies.”

President Joe Biden speaks about the March jobs report in the State Dining Room of the White House Friday, April 1, 2022, in Washington.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah tweeted that Biden’s move was the worst domestic news of the day and the best political news for the GOP, predicting that Democratic senators from border states Arizona and Nevada “will lose their elections.”

The president’s approval rating is a key barometer for his party in a midterm election cycle, and Biden’s standing with Americans has been well underwater for months. But his approval ratings on his handling of border security and immigration are even worse.


The president’s approval on immigration has been at or below 40% for a year in Fox News’ national polling. Biden stood at 37% approval and 58% disapproval on his handling of the issue in the most recent Fox News poll conducted March 18-21.

An average compiled by Real Clear Politics of all the most recent polls that asked about the president’s handling of border security and immigration put Biden’s approval at 34% and disapproval at 58%.

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