Skip to content

Will Biden’s new border measures be enough to change voters’ minds?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden tried to address a major liability for his reelection campaign by taking executive action to significantly restrict asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But it’s unclear whether the Democratic president’s efforts will be enough to change the minds of voters who have increasingly voiced alarm over the record influx of migrants on his watch. Polls have found immigration and border security to be a top issue this election year and one that has been seized on by former President Donald Trump and his Republican campaign.

Biden has shifted far to the right on immigration since his winning campaign four years ago, when he criticized Trump’s immigration priorities and promised he would restore asylum protections. Many Democrats acknowledge Biden now faces a wholly different political reality, even as key parts of his base push him to repudiate border restrictions and compare his move with Trump’s policies as president.

Sue-Ann DiVito, a 61-year-old realtor from the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown who became an immigration advocate during the Trump administration, says Republicans have been successful at spreading anti-immigrant messages in communities like hers, making some of her friends who are Democrats worry about the high number of people arriving in the U.S.

What to know about the 2024 Election

Democracy: American democracy has overcome big stress tests since 2020. More challenges lie ahead in 2024.AP’s Role: The Associated Press is the most trusted source of information on election night, with a history of accuracy dating to 1848. Learn more.Read the latest: Follow AP’s complete coverage of this year’s election.

“I think that’s why we see people who would normally support immigrants are now more quiet,” DiVito said.

A CHALLENGE FOR BIDEN AMONG DEMOCRATS AND LATINOS

The border has been a top issue for voters throughout the presidential campaign so far.

According to Gallup’s monthly data, Americans named immigration as the top issue facing the country in February, March, and April, surpassing even the share who cited the economy despite persistently higher prices. Immigration came up less frequently as a top issue in Gallup’s May poll as attention turned to Trump’s criminal trial and as the number of illegal crossings ebbed. The issue was still tied with the government and the economy as what voters saw as the nation’s most important problem.

Most Americans, 56%, say Biden’s presidency has hurt the country on the issue of immigration and border security, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted in April. That’s far higher than the number — 37% — who said the same about Trump’s time in office.

Even among Democrats, only about 3 in 10 say that Biden’s presidency has done more to help the country on immigration and border security, while about the same share say it has hurt. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans say Trump’s presidency helped on this issue.

Hispanic adults are also more likely to think Trump’s presidency helped the country with immigration and border security, compared to Biden’s. About half of Hispanic adults in March said that Biden’s presidency had done more to hurt the country on immigration and border security — a potentially alarming number as Trump’s campaign works to chip away at Democrats’ advantage with Hispanic voters.

“President Biden had no choice. He saw what was going on at the border. The numbers were higher than ever in terms of people trying to come here to seek asylum, and he knew he had to do something,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist.

Frank Luntz, a longtime pollster who has previously worked for Republicans, said immigration seemed to be especially resonating earlier this spring across the political spectrum in a way it never had before.

He said he believes Biden is especially vulnerable with African American men under 40 who are worried about newcomers competing for jobs and Latinos who may resent those entering illegally.

“The reason why immigration matters so much to so many is that it is a living, breathing illustration of the failure of Washington to solve what everyone else in America sees as a crisis,” he said Tuesday. “Biden‘s decision seems too little and too late. The public doesn’t think he cares, and therefore thinks he doesn’t get it.”

TRUMP’S RECORD INCLUDES FAMILY SEPARATION

Trump has been campaigning on the border and immigration since he launched his 2016 bid with a speech in which he cast migrants from Mexico as criminals and rapists and vowed to build a southern border wall.

While in office, his administration separated immigrant parents and children to try to deter families from illegally crossing the border, a measure that drew widespread condemnation.

Border crossings hit record highs — albeit far below the marks they’ve reached under Biden — until falling sharply as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

As he runs to return to the White House again this year, Trump has escalated his already alarmist rhetoric, accusing Biden of orchestrating a “border bloodbath” and highlighting cases of women and children killed by people who entered the U.S. illegally. He’s vowed to carry out the largest deportation operation in U.S. history if elected again.

His campaign quickly tried to cast Biden’s effort as ineffective and one that would permit thousands of migrant crossings each week.

“This executive order from Biden can only be understood as a pro-invasion, pro-illegal migration executive order,” said former Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, who orchestrated some of Trump’s most hard-line immigration policies, during a call with reporters organized by the campaign ahead of Biden’s announcement.

Trump pollster John McLaughlin said the campaign believes the issue resonates especially among a group he calls “safety moms” — suburban, college-educated women who are worried about crime and the safety of their families.

“There’s a sense of insecurity,” he said. “It’s not just the border communities, it’s all over the country.”

Trump has always turned to alarmist rhetoric on the border in election years. The difference now, according to Trump campaign aides and pollsters, is the reality voters are seeing day to day.

Crime overall is down and immigrants — even those who entered the country illegally — commit fewer crimes than those born in the U.S., according to studies of available data. But in Democratic-led cities like New York, local news reports were flooded earlier this year with images of migrants clashing with police and alarm over strained city budgets and resources to care for an influx of people coming from the border.

Conservative media and Trump’s campaign also seized on high-profile incidents like the killing of nursing student Laken Riley. A Venezuelan man in the U.S. illegally has pleaded not guilty to charges in her death.

SPLITS IN THE DEMOCRATIC BASE

Biden’s announcement laid bare lasting divisions among Democrats, with some left-leaning lawmakers and immigration advocates that form a key part of his coalition criticizing Biden’s actions as a return to the measures that marked Trump’s tenure.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she was “profoundly disappointed.” During a news conference with immigration advocates outside the Capitol, Jayapal pushed the administration to take action that would provide relief for immigrants already in the U.S.

Jayapal, D-Wash., said Tuesday’s order “means that we have people, desperate people seeking asylum who should be able to apply, and yet they will not be able to.”

Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat who has been involved in the Biden campaign’s outreach to Latino communities, cast the order as a revival of “Trump’s asylum ban” in a release Tuesday.

“You can build a wall as high as you want. You can make it as hard to seek asylum as you want. It’s not going to sustainably reduce the number of people wanting to come to the United States,” Padilla told reporters.

Still, other Democrats praised Biden’s move as a necessary measure to respond to voters’ concerns and gain control of a southern border that has at times been chaotic in recent years.

“The president is saying that, ‘I hear you, I know this is an issue, and I’m taking action,’” said Rep. Tom Suozzi, who has helped form a group of House Democrats focused on border security.

Suozzi, who won a special election in New York this year with a campaign that called for tougher immigration enforcement measures, also called for action to help immigrants who are already in the country.

DiVito, the immigrant advocate in swing-state Pennsylvania, tried to square the difference from a Democratic perspective.

“There is a choice this November and whatever negative policy that Biden is implementing, Trump is going to be a million things worse,” she said. “And we all know this.”

___

Gomez Licon reported from Miami. Associated Press writers Michelle L. Price, Amelia Thomson DeVeaux and Linley Sanders contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Source link