Harrop: If smart, Democrats will lead on immigration reforms

Polls show support for legal immigration, but Democrats need to take illegal immigration seriously.

By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist

With covid-19 slowly receding — at least in vaccinated parts of the country — but crime hanging on, law and order looks to be a leading issue in the 2022 midterm elections. And that desire for order extends to the border. Democrats should know this: The surge in undocumented migrants at the border could kill them at the polls.

President Biden has not always put forth a convincing message that he’s intent on stopping the wave of unauthorized entrants. His administration thus acted wisely last week in maintaining, at least for now, a Trump-era public health law that returned most border crossers to Mexico.

The spike in coronavirus cases may have justified keeping these border controls, which prevented most asylum seekers from applying for protection in the U.S. This was hard from a humanitarian standpoint. But with more than 6,000 arrests a day at the southern border, any relaxation of current restrictions could worsen the chaos at the cost of public support for immigration.

Americans very much oppose illegal immigration. A recent Harvard/Harris poll found that 80 percent of voters see illegal immigration as a serious issue. More ominously for Democrats, 68 percent of voters believe Biden’s executive orders on immigration encourage illegal immigration. On the question of whether Biden is creating an open border or just trying to enforce the immigration laws more humanely, voters were split. But even 38 percent of Democrats saw an “open border” policy in his actions.

Legal immigration, on the other hand, is not problem for most. A recent Gallup survey found that 3 in 4 U.S. adults agree that immigration is “a good thing” for the country; and there’s little difference in sentiment by racial or ethnic group. Some 33 percent wanted the numbers increased, and 35 percent preferred the current level. Only 31 percent thought fewer immigrants should be admitte; a number that’s way down from October 2001, when 58 percent wanted immigration decreased.

Notably, there is broad strong support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which lets immigrants who arrived illegally as children stay in the country. Large majorities support the so-called Dreamers’ case. (A federal judge in Texas recently ruled that DACA is unlawful but that people already protected by the program can stay in the country.)

The rush at the border has Democrats in swing districts and purple states especially worried, and for good reason.

Andrew Gillum’s unsuccessful run for Florida governor may underscore the dangers of not speaking carefully on this hot issue. A Black former mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum nearly beat out Republican Ron DeSantis in 2018. Though little-known at the time and facing ethics charges, Gillum lost by less than 1 point after having amassed more votes than any previous Democratic candidate.

Surely one reason for the loss was his call to “abolish ICE.” This followed reports that authorities were separating children from their parents at the border. What Gillum actually said was that he wanted to replace the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency with “a more compassionate and focused agency.”

DeSantis took Gillum’s remark out of context. But no candidate who wants to win over a politically diverse electorate should ever put the word “abolish” in front of “ICE.”

Is America suffering a labor shortage that warrants admitting more immigrants? Yes. But let’s first recognize that the current scarcity of workers has prompted employers to raise wages. Progressives embrace better pay and benefits, don’t they?

Americans could back a careful ramping up of the numbers as long as that’s done in an orderly manner. A humane and generous immigration program could enjoy high public support, but only if the laws are taken seriously.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Aug. 18

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, violent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump scale the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Two Seattle police officers who were in Washington, D.C., during the January 6 insurrection were illegally trespassing on Capitol grounds while rioters stormed the building, but lied about their actions, a police watchdog said in a report released Thursday, July 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Editorial: Electoral Count Act needs bipartisan reforms now

Changes to the 135-year-old law may prevent future attempts to overturn elections.

If voting for Republicans, choose wisely

I happen to be a fan of The Daily Herald and value… Continue reading

State constitution applies too regarding firearms

Don’t ignore the Washington state constitution. I suggest that the author of… Continue reading

Abortion laws being written with little knowledge

It is beyond comprehension how abortion rights opponents feel they can interfere… Continue reading

Comment: Dignity is Cheney’s reward for unflinching defiance

Cheney knew her opposition of Trump would cost her her return to Congress. She stuck to her values.

Comment: Poor funding isn’t only reason for an antiquated IRS

Yes, the agency has been starved for support, but it still should have been able to make some moves to modernize.

Comment: Facebook’s openness on its chatbot gets it right

While other tech giants are secretive about their AI work, Meta has been transparent and inviting.

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Aug. 17

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Most Read