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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00023339
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4. NATIONAL SECURITY: Arms & Immigration

IMMIGRATION: written by Marielena Hincapié

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Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
IMMIGRATION:

Written by Marielena Hincapié

First, I’m going to share some framing thoughts about where we are on immigration. Second, I’ll share what our polling shows that voters want from Democrats in terms of solutions. And third, I’ll focus specifically on the border and the urgent need to protect immigrant youth with DACA—so-called “Dreamers”—so that Democrats can be on the offense on this issue.

To begin with, immigrants and immigration have been essential to who we are as a nation and a source of strength for our future. I was just listening to Colonel Wilkerson and there’s a lot of what he is saying which is critical for the solutions on immigration. Immigration is a global phenomenon. And we’re experiencing record numbers of people moving across the globe due to climate crisis, a rise of authoritarianism, xenophobia, and war—as we’ve seen most recently with Ukraine, for example.

At the U.S.-Mexico border, we’re experiencing the crisis and chaos that was left behind by Trump’s cruel policies, including family separation and weaponizing public health policies, like Title 42, that were created back during the Second World War to essentially block black and brown immigrants from legally seeking safety and freedom through our asylum system. So we need to understand Republicans’ anti-immigrant agenda, as actually being an anti-democratic agenda that is dangerous, and that the attempt is really to block future voters from becoming citizens.

We need a paradigm shift that sees immigration not only through a domestic-policy lens, but actually through a national security lens, an economic and foreign policy lens…and also the lens of climate justice, racial justice, and economic justice.

We are expecting record numbers of refugees around the world and we don’t have laws to handle that. What’s needed is a regional approach—as well as global and Western-hemispheric approaches. Title 42 focuses on people’s freedom to stay in their home country, so they are not forced to migrate. And for those who arrive at our borders and at our airports—or those who are citizens-in-waiting (like immigrant youth who are popularly known as Dreamers), or the essential workers who have kept our country running—we need to ensure that we have a humane immigration system that provides legal pathways for people to become full participants in our democracy.

Republicans are convinced that immigration politics are in their favor, and the media at times echoes that by amplifying false narratives. But Democrats, even in frontline swing districts, should know that they should confront Republicans about their dangerous extremism on immigration and border issues. In poll after poll, a strong majority of Americans agree that the nation’s immigration system is in desperate need of reform since we have not had a comprehensive reform since 1986 under Ronald Reagan. What voters want is a fair and equitable immigration policy and candidates who defend those policies.

The National Immigration Law Center and the Milk Immigrant Justice Fund have spent a considerable amount of time and resources to better understand the best way to engage swing voters on these issues. Last year we conducted voting research in Arizona, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia, and found four core messages. They want:

* messages that are anchored in shared values;

* information about the harms of the complex immigration system;

* candidates to lift up the contributions and amplify the contributions that immigrants; and

* an aspirational vision of what our candidates are in favor of, not simply against.

These top-line frames will appeal both to base voters and persuadable voters across a range of states and districts. They should enable Democrats to feel comfortable speaking from a position of strength.

To focus on the border to begin with, several developments over the past year have thrust border politics to the forefront. And Republicans are certainly trying to weaponize that into a political game. Contrary to conventional rhetoric about “open borders,” remember the Department of Homeland Security was just created in 2013, after 9/11; since then the United States has spent over $381 billion on border and interior enforcement—more than all federal law enforcement agencies combined. So the border actually has been secure.

What’s happened, though, is that the Trump administration decimated our refugee-resettlement system and asylum system. In a survey this past May that we conducted of six battleground states—Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—we found that 58 percent of likely midterm voters would prefer a candidate who favors allowing people to legally request asylum at the southern border over a candidate that opposes that. Separately, two-thirds of those surveyed believe that people fleeing violence and oppression should have an opportunity to have their asylum cases heard and fairly considered. That is central to our tenet of being a nation of laws and the rule of law.

Just like the Trump Supreme Court began rolling back fundamental rights like abortion, it’s poised to strike down DACA in its next term. But again as with Choice, 60-75 percent of voters support Congress protecting Dreamers. taking action on this.

I’ll close by saying that voters want solutions. They want to hear that Democrats will ensure that people have the freedom to stay in their home country; that a fair and functioning immigration system processes migrants at the border, that it creates legal pathways for people, and that people can be processed in their home country throughout the Americas. And finally, that it provides Dreamers with permanent protection, so they can continue contributing to their families, communities, and our country.

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