Opinion: Immigration surge weighs on Democrats

When Joe Biden arrived at the U.S. Capitol to be sworn in as President on Jan. 20, 2021, there was already a notable increase underway in illegal immigration along the southern border with Mexico, averaging about 75,000 migrants each month.

But since Biden became President, those numbers have more than doubled — now averaging around 175,000 a month, with fears of an even greater increase ahead.

Republicans have been relentlessly pounding away at Biden for halting work on Donald Trump’s border wall and reversing a number of Trump policies on illegal immigration.

“This administration’s open border policy has been devastating for communities across America,” said U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point.

“We must prioritize our national security and address the crisis at our southern border,” said U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro.

Now with the Biden Administration ready to drop a Coronavirus restriction used to stop migrants at the border — known by the shorthand of ‘Title 42′ — more Democrats are making it clear they believe that would be a mistake.

That’s been especially true for Senators running for reelection this year, including Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock.

“Senator Warnock does not support lifting Title 42 at this time,” Warnock’s office told reporters earlier this month, as the Georgia Democrat called on the Biden Administration to develop more comprehensive plans on how it would deal with an even larger illegal immigration surge.

In the state of Arizona, two other Senate Democrats made the same calculation as Warnock.

“It’s unacceptable to end Title 42 without a plan,” said U.S. Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema in a joint statement. “This is the wrong decision.”

Earlier this month, Democrats saw the power of the Title 42 issue first-hand, as the Senate had to abandon work on a $10 billion COVID bill to fund new vaccines, tests, and antiviral treatments.

Republicans said they would support the COVID funding – but only if they could have a Senate vote on blocking the Biden immigration policy change. Democratic leaders balked.

In recent years, we have seen the politics of immigration swing both ways. When Donald Trump pressed to build his border wall, Democrats rallied together to slow the construction.

But now with illegal immigration numbers growing substantially, the momentum is running with the GOP.

That was obvious this month when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas ordered his state to start shipping people who entered the country illegally — by charter bus — to Washington, D.C., a move that was heartily endorsed by U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens.

“If our nation’s leaders refuse to visit the southern border to witness the crisis they’ve created,” Clyde said, “We must bring the southern border to them.”

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com