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The migration gap deepens before the elections

There may be no other issue where the red-blue divide runs as deep as immigration right now, and you should look no further than the feud between the Texas governor. Greg Abbott and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to watch it in real time.

Mr. Abbott is running for re-election in November on a tough immigration platform, fighting Biden’s border surge with state police, his own border wall and a busing campaign that is sending illegal immigrants to cities led by Democrats in Washington, New York. and chicago

Ms Lightfoot, who is facing voters in February, has responded by criticizing the Republican governor for being unchristian and “racist” but said she would welcome any newcomers he sent her.

He has even used the fight to raise money for his campaign.

“This is a critical time for our city,” he said in an email to supporters asking for donations for his campaign. “I don’t appreciate the governor. Abbott’s discriminatory practices, but I’m not going to turn away immigrants when we have the resources to welcome them with open arms.

Interestingly, both the governor and the mayor probably have winning positions.

In red Texas, border security is a top issue for voters and has been for years, said Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas-based Republican strategist. And the Republican governor’s stance plays well not only with Republicans, but also with independents and even Latinos in the border area who might otherwise lean Democrat.

“You are with 60% of the voters,” Steinhauser said. “If you spend time anywhere in Texas, you’ll find that the views on this are a little more in line with the safety side.”

Dick W. Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said as a former Texan, he wasn’t too sure the state was leaning so heavily toward immigration.

But he said Lightfoot is feeling the pulse of voters in her city, which has a long history as a magnet for immigrants, and her support for Abbott bus immigrants is likely to help her among the city’s Latino voters.

“Overall, I think the mayor’s job has been popular,” Simpson said.

However, it remains murky where immigration falls for the rest of the country.

Republican strategists say the howls of protest from Democrats whose cities are targeted by the bus campaign can only help, underscoring just how bad things have gotten under President Biden.

Democrats counter that the busing campaign is vicious and that voters will punish the GOP for using immigrants as a “gimmick.”

“What they’re doing is just wrong, it’s un-American, it’s reckless,” Biden said at a gathering of Hispanic Democrats on Thursday.

He said the immigration debate should be about how much leniency to show and urged Congress to accept a bill that offers citizenship rights to millions of illegal immigrants.

“It’s time to do it. That is why we have to win this election out of the year,” said the president.

Republicans entered 2022 thinking that immigration would be a critical weapon they could use in their bid to win back the House and Senate from Democrats in the midterm elections. Strategists had urged them to work hard on the issue, highlighting the chaos President Biden has created with his more lenient approach to illegal crossers.

But as congressional campaigns reach the final stretch, it’s unclear how much power the issue retains.

Republican leaders, while still complaining about border chaos, no longer put it among the top issues for voters, instead pointing to inflation, government spending and fiscal policy.

That the border motivates Republican voters is not in doubt. Whether it matters beyond the Republican Party is an open question.

America’s Voice, a leading immigrant rights group, said polls show other issues, such as abortion, have overtaken immigration in calculating voters’ ballots.

Beyond that, the group contends, the GOP has overdone it.

“While the importance of immigration has diminished for most general election voters, it remains a powerful point of distinction between the parties. And while the most animated voters on immigration are MAGA base voters, the vast majority of the general electorate rejects such extremism,” the group concluded.

America’s Voice pointed to a poll conducted in late August by progressive-leaning firms Hart Research and BSP Research that found Republicans ahead on border issues and immigration in general. Voters in states and congressional districts that are considered “battlegrounds” for control of Congress give the GOP a 48-40 advantage on immigration, pollsters said.

But pollsters said those numbers change when voters are given a specific choice between a Democrat who supports leniency toward illegal immigrants already here and a Republican who opposes citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Steinhauser said voters seem to have two views on immigration: They want borders controlled, but they are willing to be generous to those who broke the law to get in.

“All the data that I’ve seen tells me that there is really a middle ground when it comes to immigration and border security,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people across the country who would like to see humane border security that prevents mass migration, that allows us to understand who is coming and why, that doesn’t allow cartels to trample on our country, and that treats people with humanity. and decently.”

In fact, Democratic candidates in re-election battles have taken on the right on border issues.

In Arizona, which like Texas is a border state, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly has touted his work to get the Biden administration to complete sections of Trump’s border wall near Yuma. Mr. Biden had to go back on his promise of “not one more foot” of construction.

And though New Hampshire is far from the southern border, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan made a pilgrimage to Arizona this spring to record video of herself standing in front of the wall to urge more construction.

That move drew fierce condemnation from Hispanic Democratic activists in his state.

Elsewhere, however, Republicans are the ones taking what have generally been considered Democratic positions on domestic enforcement.

In Wake County, North Carolina, the Republican candidate for sheriff has announced that he will not reinstate cooperative agreements between the county and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Donnie Harrison also said he will not accept any requests for ICE deportation “detention,” creating an effective sanctuary jurisdiction.

Mr. Harrison’s position is even more surprising because it is a change from just four years ago, when he was sheriff and had a cooperation agreement with ICE. He lost his 2018 re-election bid to a Democrat who promised to end the cooperation agreement.

Mr. Harrison’s reversal comes even as Wake County is reeling from the death of a sheriff’s deputy last month. Several illegal immigrants have been charged with the murder.


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