by Park MacDougald
Friday, 29
April 2022
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Ending Title 42 will be a disaster for the Democrats

They cannot dismiss legitimate concerns about the border as GOP propaganda
by Park MacDougald
Democratic politicians hold a news conference on Title 42 outside the Capitol. Credit: Getty

On May 23, the Biden administration is expected to lift Title 42, a Trump-era policy that gives the federal government wide authority to block non-citizens from entering the country “when doing so is required in the interest of public health.” The rule has long been reviled by progressives and immigration advocates, and on a purely legal basis, it makes little sense for the government to continue claiming emergency pandemic powers at a time when it is dropping most other Covid restrictions. 

And yet, the decision to lift Title 42 — currently the most effective tool for turning away would-be migrants (1.8 million have been turned away since March 2020) — comes at an inopportune time for Democrats. Without it, illegal immigration is almost certain to skyrocket, even as Democrats are already facing strong headwinds leading into this autumn’s midterms as a result of inflation and economic contraction. Recognising the danger, a number of swing-state Democrats — including Beto O’Rourke and Senators Mark Kelly and Maggie Hassan — have sought to pressure the administration to avoid lifting the rule until it has come up with a credible plan for post-Title 42 border security. 

This conflict comes at a time of intense intra-Democratic argument over how to respond to successful Republican attacks on “culture war” issues ranging from immigration to education and crime. Centre-Left pundits such as Matt Yglesias, Jonathan Chait, and Ruy Teixeira have repeatedly argued that the Democrats are hurting because voters associate it with unpopular progressive positions and cultural stances. As such, the party needs to either repudiate Left-wing excesses or seek to lower their salience. 

More recently, however, writers like Jamelle Bouie and Greg Sargent have urged the opposite course, calling on their party to go on offence in an attempt to galvanise the Democratic base. Now, some progressives are urging a similar stance on the border. As Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett recently explained to the New Republic:

I just feel like this is a giant miscalculation from these Senate candidates because the public obviously doesn’t have the best understanding of what Title 42 is and what it does. If these candidates were making an affirmative case for what asylum is in this country — that is the system we’ve had in place for decades where the United States can be a place of refuge for people fleeing desperate situations, that would be a thing that people support.
- Sawyer Hackett

Hackett echoes the language coming out of progressive nonprofits such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, which have derided Title 42 as a racist attack on the U.S. asylum system and urged the administration to repeal it regardless of political consequences. 

The problem, for progressives, is that no change in rhetorical emphasis is likely to change political realities, at least in the near term. Democratic voters, by and large, do not care at all about illegal immigration, and Democratic pressure groups tend to favour a stance of de facto open borders. But 60% of Americans and 56% of independents worry either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about illegal immigration, and one poll from early April found that lifting Title 42 was Biden’s single most unpopular policy decision. Dismissing these concerns as the product of GOP propaganda and “hate” — especially if the end of Title 42 leads to the predicted border surge — is a recipe for further Democratic failure.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago

Dismissing these concerns as the product of GOP propaganda and “hate” — especially if the end of Title 42 leads to the predicted border surge — is a recipe for further Democratic failure.
And yet they’ll do it anyway. Eight months ago in an Unherd youtube interview, David Shorr, a former Democratic pollster and strategist, made the case for Democrats putting their full weight behind generally popular programs such as expanding access to healthcare and childcare. Then they could quietly enact more ‘progressive’ legislation. He believed young, progressive graduates from Ivy League universities exerted disproportionate influence in Democratic policy making and were out of touch with the majority of Americans.
That guy struck me as really smart and potentially a highly effective Democratic operative. It was significant, however, that he was an ex-Democratic pollster. He’d been pushed out by the progressives for his opinions.
Long may the progressives drive the Democratic agenda. They’ll do more to ensure future GOP victories than anything the GOP will do on its own behalf.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 month ago

Sawyer Hackett’s assertion that “…the public doesn’t have the best understanding…” is so stereotypical of the Democrats and their idiot vanguard attitudes.

Nell Larkin
Nell Larkin
1 month ago

The asylum laws are not intended for people fleeing “desperate situations”. They are for people who are fleeing persecution by their government because of their race, religion, or political point of view. They were enacted “decades ago” to prevent a repeat of how Jews and other political refugees from fascism were denied entry to the US. Because the law allows people to enter the US and apply for asylum, it allows migrants to enter the US illegally, apply for asylum, and stay here until their case is decided. But the majority of those migrants are fleeing poverty and gang violence, not the governmental political, racial, or religious persecution covered by the asylum law. I’m sure that they feel their situation is desperate, but it’s an abuse of the asylum laws that has gotten out of control. What is to stop millions of desperate Central and South Americans from crossing the border by any means they can and applying for asylum and being allowed to stay until their case is heard? It certainly isn’t our current immigration laws.

Stephen Walshe
Stephen Walshe
1 month ago

It won’t lose them many votes in the short term as very few of those who are engaged on this issue would vote for the Democrats in the mid-terms anyway. And in the long term it will contribute to the demographic transformation of American society which “progressives” believe will benefit them.

Last edited 1 month ago by Stephen Walshe
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Working class Blacks and (legal) Latino immigrants are among the most opposed to illegal immigration. The former fears competition for diminishing working class jobs; the latter resents people bypassing all the hoops they had to go through. If 5-10% of those 2 core Dem constituencies just stay home on election day, it would be a massacre for the Dems.

The only group that supports illegal immigration are the college-educated. No job competition, and they get cheap nannies and gardeners.

David McDowell
David McDowell
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walshe

Exactly, this is about long term demographics and voter biases.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
1 month ago

To me the most fascinating question (which nobody addresses) is this.-
Do the ‘progressives’ really suppose that when they have finished turning the USA (and other countries such as ours) into Third World lands, they will enjoy living in it?

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

There will always be calls for greater progressivism (or greater reactionaryism) as the activists try the drag the edges of the Overton Window to the left (or right). But there are comparatively few votes to gain by such manoeuvres, and many to lose.
It won’t stop the activists though.

Douglas H
Douglas H
1 month ago

“the public obviously doesn’t have the best understanding of what Title 42 is and what it does”. That classic statement from a political insider says it all.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
1 month ago

Douglas Murray brought up an excellent point on the recent podcast with Freddie – the ‘West’ cannot accomodate everyone in the world who is living in a difficult situation.

The US has had a history of high immigration at periods, and it seems fairly sustainable, but the impulse to release all controls seems to me insane.

The wealthy people in the poorer countries of Latin America live in fenced and gated communities with highly armed private security, and even ordinary homes are surrounded by razor wire in Costa Rica (where I lived). I would be loath to see America reduced to that.

David McDowell
David McDowell
1 month ago

Why will it be a disaster for the Democrats if it means admitting people who are very likely to vote Democrat in preference to Republican?