President Joe Biden’s immigration problem isn’t just about policy. It’s that he’s not talking about the issue enough, voters say in a new survey from a Democratic polling firm.
Fifty-eight percent of voters in seven key Electoral College battleground states disapprove of how the president is handling immigration, compared with 32 percent who approve, according to a new swing-state poll from Global Strategy Group first shared with POLITICO. And a majority of voters surveyed, at 52 percent, believe Biden is ignoring problems at the border, while 50 percent said the president is ignoring the situation around undocumented immigrants.
Republicans talk more about immigration than Democrats, and they are trusted more to handle the issue, according to the poll. Both parties get low marks for how they are handling immigration, but Democrats face greater criticism because voters don’t know where the party falls on the issue. Thirty-nine percent of voters trust Biden and Democrats in Congress more on the immigration issue, while 47 percent said they trust Republican lawmakers more.
The new poll — conducted on behalf of immigrant advocacy group Immigration Hub and Voto Latino, a political organization focused on Latino voter turnout — comes three weeks before the administration plans to end Title 42, the Trump-era policy that has allowed border agents to immediately expel millions of migrants on public health grounds for the past three years. Biden administration officials fear a surge at the border upon the policy’s expiration next month and have turned to more restrictive measures to tamp down a record number of migrants fleeing political and economic turmoil.
The White House should seize on the opportunity to get ahead of Republicans’ growing chatter leading up to the May 11 end date, said Beatriz Lopez, Immigration Hub’s chief political and communications officer.
“It’s comms 101. Get ahead of the narrative. Talk about what you’re doing. Talk about what you plan to do,” Lopez said. “But it’s talking about both — not just the border but also what they’re planning to do to protect Dreamers and others who are every bit a part of the American community. That balanced approach is what works with voters.”
The shift in border policy is expected to be a major political test for the Biden White House, which has rolled out a patchwork of solutions to combat a growing humanitarian crisis at the southern border. The Biden administration is also dealing with a gridlocked Congress, although lawmakers have long been unable to compromise on how to fix an outdated immigration system.
“The fact is that in the 820 days since he sent Congress a comprehensive immigration reform bill, President Biden has taken unprecedented action to expand lawful immigration pathways, limit unlawful immigration, protect Dreamers and farmworkers, and increase border security. Because of this administration’s work, unlawful immigration is down, legal immigration is up, we’ve got record funds for border security, and thousands of smugglers are now off the streets,” White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, all that House Republicans have managed to ‘accomplish’ since taking their (slim) majority is voting to abruptly lift Title 42 overnight with no plan in place for what comes next, proposing draconian funding cuts to border security, and playing partisan political games that do nothing to actually fix our long-broken immigration system.”
House Republicans unveiled immigration legislation this week, with plans to further restrict asylum, expand family detention and crack down on the employment of undocumented workers. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Wednesday, though the measure has little chance of making it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also unveiled a plan on Tuesday that relies on the White House taking executive action to address immigration. He shared his plan with the White House and other federal agencies, with ideas for creating new pathways to citizenship, increasing humanitarian aid for certain countries, increasing border security funding and expanding efforts to target human traffickers.
Menendez’s suggestions come as the Biden administration prepares for a spike in border crossings come May, already the busiest time of year for migration. In addition to relying on more stringent immigration proposals to restrict entry to asylum-seeking migrants, the administration has discussed reinstating the detention of migrant families — drawing great backlash from immigration advocates, lawyers and Democrats.
More than eight-in-10 voters in the poll — 82 percent — believe the immigration system is broken, and they want to see both enhanced border security and policies that provide a pathway to citizenship, such as work permits for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and Temporary Protected Status for other migrants.
Sixty-five percent of respondents have a positive view of “modernizing and improving the physical infrastructure at high-volume ports of entry to enhance screening and processing,” while 76 percent want Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. to gain legal status if certain requirements are met, including background checks. Sixty-four percent of voters back the Biden administration using its TPS authority.
“Voters disapprove of the job both parties are doing on immigration because they see the system as deeply broken and in desperate need of a fix,” said Nick Gourevitch, partner and managing director at Global Strategy Group. “Recent polling shows voters clearly want Washington to act with solutions that are balanced — that include both border security and pathways to citizenship and legal status for Dreamers and other immigrants.”
The Biden administration announced plans last week to expand health care coverage to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but great concern remains about the fate of the popular Obama-era program, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to receive work permits and deportation relief. After a flurry of court challenges, advocates and legal experts warn the program is headed to the Supreme Court, where the conservative bench seems likely to rule it illegal.
The online poll surveyed 1,201 likely 2024 general election voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin between April 4-11. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 points.
The exclusive poll comes three weeks before the Biden administration plans to end Title 42.