In case you’ve been wondering how the White House’s spin is working to shape Americans’ opinion of the definitely-not-a-crisis at the border, here’s your answer: Not well.
Which is not to say that immigration is destined to sink Sleepy Joe and his party in the midterms. Their most effective bit of “messaging” on immigration so far, I think, is the simple fact that they’re going big on so many other priorities competing for public attention. A $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill! A $2.5 trillion infrastructure bill! A total overhaul of U.S. election laws! Some sort of gun-control push! Maybe even marijuana legalization!
And none of that includes Biden’s biggest policy success to date, the ramp-up in daily vaccinations. We’re going to defeat COVID while he’s in the White House. How much is a fiasco at the border worth to voters when weighed against that?
Even so, immigration is unquestionably his biggest policy liability so far. According to Morning Consult, in fact, it’s the only issue on which disapproval of Biden exceeds approval.
According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, 49 percent of voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration issues, up 8 percentage points since mid-March, while 40 percent approve, down 6 points over the same time period.
The rapid movement came from across the political spectrum, with the share of Democrats who disapprove of his handling of immigration increasing 11 points (to 20 percent), and the share of Republicans who said the same up 7 points (to 84 percent), since Biden took office.
A fluke result? Nope. NPR/Marist also finds Americans unhappy with the situation at the border: “[J]ust 34% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of immigration, while 53% disapprove. A majority of independents and even a quarter of Democrats disapprove of the job he’s doing on the issue.” A mere 27 percent of indies give Biden good marks on the issue while 66 percent of Dems agree. To put that in perspective, on both the economy and the pandemic, more than 90 percent of his own party says he’s doing a good job.
Let’s round this off with the latest numbers from ABC, which also has Biden earning high numbers on the pandemic and vaccine distribution. But on the border, it’s different:
Another poll where even Dems can’t muster more than mid-60s approval for him on the issue. Conceivably that’s because some lefties are so radically pro-immigration that they think he’s not doing enough to let migrants in. He’s still turning away most adults at the border, after all, and not all families are getting in, although plenty are. If you’re an AOC Democrat, that border should be wide open to all comers and it isn’t right now.
But I don’t think it’s the amnesty brigades on the left that are causing his problem here. When ABC asked whether the border situation is a “crisis,” 54 percent of Americans said yes, nearly as many as said they disapprove of how Biden’s handling it. That suggests (although doesn’t prove) that the faction giving him low marks thinks too many people are being allowed in too quickly. Morning Consult also had the clever idea to ask people if they believe the White House’s spin that the surge in unaccompanied kids is mostly a seasonal thing or if they think it’s mostly a result of Biden’s policies. Result:
The majority’s right in this case. Although there is reliably a seasonal increase in border crossings each spring, previous surges have been a fraction of what the Border Patrol is seeing now — and may be seeing for months to come. Over the weekend, Axios reported that the Biden administration believes the number of unaccompanied kids arriving could swell to 25,000 or so each month and stay that way through September. To put that in perspective, the previous monthly record was … 11,475. We could see double that, every month for the next six months.
Where will we put them? There are so many kids in Border Patrol custody already that they’re staying in detention facilities for an average of 90 hours each, past the legal limit, until they can be moved to some more appropriate shelter. What’ll that be like in a month, let alone in September?
A core critique of Team Biden by righties since the crisis began is that, in their eagerness to show compassion towards migrant kids, the White House is actually incentivizing dangerous conditions for them. There’s the danger of the long northward trek from Central America, the danger of being smuggled in by traffickers, and the danger of contracting COVID in cramped quarters. A few days ago, the AP reported on a new danger, one created directly by the administration itself. In their mad rush to find people to care for the growing population of migrant children, DHS is cutting corners that shouldn’t be cut:
Staff and volunteers directly caring for children at new emergency sites don’t have to undergo FBI fingerprint checks, which use criminal databases not accessible to the public and can overcome someone changing their name or using a false identity…
Laura Nodolf, the district attorney in Midland, Texas, where HHS opened an emergency site this month, said that without fingerprint checks, “we truly do not know who the individual is who is providing direct care.”
“That’s placing the children under care of HHS in the path, potentially, of a sex offender,” Nodolf said. “They are putting these children in a position of becoming potential victims.”
The administration says it’s fine because the new workers will be under the supervision of staffers who have passed fingerprint checks. At all times, though? At a moment when it’d be especially easy for a child to slip through the cracks and go “missing” given how many HHS has to care for?
I wonder how bad the polling will need to get before Biden un-reverses Trump’s policy of turning unaccompanied kids away at the border. The left will howl, but the left wants to win the midterms too. At some point a policy becomes sufficiently toxic to the electorate that even true believers have to think twice.