Maru Mora-Villalpando looks on as supporters surround her at a news conference announcing that the longtime activist for illegal immigrants in the Northwest says she herself is now facing deportation, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Seattle. Mora-Villalpando, a native of Mexico City who has been in the U.S. for more than 25 years, said Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has given her a notice to appear before an immigration judge. She says she believes ICE is targeting her because of her activism. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The Democrats are desperate for the Blue Wave election to materialize, wash over Washington, D.C., and leave them behind along with seaweed and dead horseshoe crabs. But to get there, they have to convince people to vote for them. And that is being made harder by Democrat consultants instructing candidates in close races to refuse to engage on President Trump’s signature issue: immigration.
Democrats, the strategists who prepared the memo advised, could neutralize the attacks if they responded head-on. But they should spend “as little time as possible” talking about immigration itself, and instead pivot to more fruitful issues for Democrats like health care and taxation.
The strategists worry that Republicans’ foreboding immigration message is far more personal to most voters than the more modulated position of Democrats, whose push to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers and to ensure humane treatment of undocumented people does not, in many cases, affect voters themselves.
“It is very difficult to win on immigration with vulnerable voters in the states Trump carried in 2016,” the strategy memo said, arguing that “even the most draconian of Republican policies,” such as family separation and threats to deport the Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — failed to sway most of them.
This difficulty this whole issue presents to the Democrats was highlighted over the summer as Democrats tried to weaponize the rather stupid “Abolish the ICE” movement.
Trump’s incendiary immigration policies have afforded Jayapal a spotlight seldom made available to freshman legislators. But in pledging to “stop funding a rogue agency,” Jayapal directed the spotlight onto the Democratic Party’s ambivalent feelings about immigration. Jayapal represents a new breed of liberal politician who is — along with some of this year’s other congressional candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — more wedded to social-justice movements than to the slow grind of governance. For years, a number of immigration advocates had been agitating to abolish ICE. Now Jayapal was on record as the first member of Congress to openly endorse doing so.
On June 25, her colleague Mark Pocan of Wisconsin — the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Jayapal is first vice chairwoman — announced that he would soon be introducing a bill that would form a new agency to replace ICE within a year; Jayapal joined as a co-sponsor…
When Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and the House majority leader, got wind of the Abolish ICE bill, he gleefully offered to schedule it for an immediate vote. Jayapal and Pocan saw the bind they were in with their caucus and indicated that they would vote against their own bill if it were brought to the floor. McCarthy retaliated with a bill declaring support for ICE. “It’s a political vote,” Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, advised Democrats. “Treat it politically.” Jayapal and most of her fellow Democrats simply voted “present,” though several from conservative districts — including Visclosky — voted for the resolution.
Much to the surprise of the Democrats, one of their signature issues, “sanctuary cities,” is looking like a third-rail for Democrat candidates.
But where Democrats see caution signs, Republicans see opportunities. Matt Gorman, the communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s House campaign arm, said immigration themes — “sanctuary cities” in particular, as well as liberal calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement — were among voters’ top concerns in some places where Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and where Republicans are now battling to hang on to competitive seats.
“It’s a surprising development in a way, but at least in certain swing districts, it’s a way for Republicans to really go on offense,” Mr. Gorman said. “What we are really focused on is localizing it, so it’s about what people are experiencing in their own communities.”
In Pennsylvania, a Republican congressional candidate invoked the rape of a 5-year-old girl by an unauthorized immigrant to attack his Democratic rival’s stance on immigration. In North Dakota, a Republican Senate candidate accused his Democratic opponent of wanting to let cities “hide illegal immigrants, especially those who commit violent crimes.” Mr. Trump has been blunter: Democrats, he said, support “sanctuary cities of death.”
The problem for Democrats begins with that term: The loaded phrase refers to jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, declining to hold undocumented immigrants past their release dates even if Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, has requested that they remain detained for possible deportation.
But during his campaign rallies, Mr. Trump — who made a harsh immigration message, which critics called racist, a key component of his 2016 campaign — has portrayed “sanctuary cities” as lawless places where danger lurks around every corner.
The NYT observes:
Today the Democratic Party is generally pro-immigration. And yet many of its elected officeholders remain deeply wary of saying so and especially conflicted about how to address the flaws in the country’s immigration system — or whether to address them at all. Their reasoning may be as simple as this: Unlike Republican voters, who routinely punish their politicians for being insufficiently anti-immigrant, Democratic voters do not reward theirs for being forthrightly pro-immigrant.
But I think that is moonlight and bullsh** sold to make Democrat apparatchiks feel good about themselves. Immigration is actually an effective wedge issue on the Democrat side of the equation. The people hit hardest by the Democrat infatuation with open borders are lower paid, unskilled workers who traditionally tend to congregate to the Democrats. It is those jobs that are put in jeopardy by illegal immigrants. On the GOP side, even if you disagree with the sharp edges of Trump’s immigration enforcement methods, very few will bolt the party and vote for an Abolish the ICE Democrat.
After months of negative headlines about immigrant children being ripped from their parents, Republicans are on the attack, using fear-based narratives to paint Democrats as reckless https://t.co/RxXOILvnTy
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 14, 2018
I was wondering why Democrats running in the midterms aren’t talking more about forced family separation.
Consultants say voters don’t care, and candidates risk being targeted as pro-sanctuary city. https://t.co/jomlUL3l7w
— Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) October 15, 2018
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