Does immigration hold promise as a lever for Democrats in the upcoming midterms? Now that the Trump administration has ended family separations, the political center has shifted significantly in their direction. Not only does the “abolish ICE” drive run counter to the American public’s desire for enforcement of border laws, a majority in a recent Washington Post poll supports detaining families together rather than engage in so-called “catch and release” policies when arrests involve children. Scott Clement breaks down the results:
The finding suggests most Americans agree with the Justice Department’s request to a federal court to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold families with children in detention together until their cases are adjudicated. Doing so would require modifying a long-standing court settlement that requires children to be released from detention facilities within 20 days.
As The Post’s Maria Sacchetti and Tony Perry reported Monday, a federal judge in California sharply rebuked that request. The result is that reunited families will be released and allowed to stay in the United States pending further immigration proceedings — “the exact opposite of what President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had hoped to accomplish when they launched the ‘zero tolerance’ effort in May.”
Despite the legal setback, the Post-Schar School poll shows broad support for the policy Trump administration lawyers pushed for, including among a wide range of political groups. Keeping immigrant families in detention rather than releasing them garners support from 74 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents. Democrats — 89 percent of whom disapprove of Trump’s handling of immigration — are almost evenly split on the question, with 49 percent saying families should be detained, while 50 percent say they should be temporarily released.
There is little gender gap on the question, with 59 percent of men and 57 percent of women preferring to detain immigrant families together until their case is resolved. That compares with child-parent separations, about which women were 25 percentage points more likely than men to say they “strongly opposed” (65 percent vs. 40 percent).
The news gets even worse for Democrats where it matters most. “Battleground” voters support family detention over release by a 64/35 margin, slightly more supportive than the 60/35 among non-battleground voters. African-American voters also slightly prefer family detention to release, 48/45, while Hispanics oppose it by just a 45/50 margin. That makes it pretty tough to call this a racist policy, although we will certainly see some politicians try to make that case.
That’s not the only bad news for Democrats who believe they have a winning issue on immigration enforcement. The same poll shows Trump winning on border security over Democrats in Congress, 37/27, a margin which doubles among battleground voters to 45/25. It widens a little further among independents, 42/18. It’s a virtual tie among women at 28/30, but men trust Trump far more at 46/24. Apparently, a lot of Americans take Democrats’ pledges to abolish ICE seriously. Small wonder that Paul Ryan pushed Marl Pocan’s bill to the floor — and small wonder than Pocan and other Democrats are bailing on it as fast as they can.
Finally, Democrats’ attempts to argue that the US should return to Obama’s immigration policy are likely doomed to fail, too. In fact, more people now want to move away from the previous administration’s policies on a broad front than at any time over the past year:
The latest McLaughlin & Associates poll suggests that Trump has support for distancing himself and policies from Obama.
As recently as January, the country was split on pulling away from or continuing with Obama’s policies.
Now, however, the gap has widened. Some 47 percent want to “move away from the policies of President Obama.” And 41 percent want to continue those policies.
That’s true in every regional demographic, and is especially true with independents (48/32). It’s also true among men and women, although more significantly among the former. And it’s a flat-out tie among Hispanics, about the same as it is in the WaPo poll.
If Democrats think they’re moving the needle on immigration with their extremist declarations, they’re aiming for a big shock in November.