The Jolt: Immigrant groups unhappy with Warnock criticism of new border policy

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

News and analysis from the politics team at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is among the members in swing states who, along with moderate Democrats, have criticized President Joe Biden’s decision to end a change to immigration rules implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.

Title 42 was created under President Donald Trump’s tenure in 2020 and effectively barred most asylum seekers from entering the country. It has been used to deport about 1.7 million people, and many of them end up in makeshift camps in nearby Mexican towns.

Biden recently decided to end the policy, leading aid groups to prepare for a shift at the border. Republicans have said it’s the wrong time and could overwhelm resources.

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Enter vulnerable Democrats like Warnock, who sided with the opposition.

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“I think this is not the right time and we have not seen a detailed plan from the administration,” Warnock told reporters at CNN and other publications earlier this week. “We need assurances that we have security at the border and that we protect communities on this side of the border. I think this is the wrong time and I haven’t seen a plan that gives me comfort.”

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On Wednesday, a coalition of Latino and immigrant advocates sent Warnock a letter criticizing his comments. These include groups that have backed Warnock, including GALEO Impact Fund and the political arm of CASA. Others, like the Latino Community Fund, are nonpartisan but are credited with boosting Latino turnout in ways that benefitted Warnock in 2021.

The letter says they were disappointed to hear that Warnock opposed ending Title 42 and encourage him to advocate for “fair, just, and common-sense immigration policies.”

“Your statement is deeply concerning to us, considering our commitment to supporting policies that ensure the humane treatment of migrant communities,” the groups wrote. “The end of this Trump-era policy marks an important step towards a more just and compassionate immigration system. It is the direct result of a sustained effort by asylum seekers, medical and public health experts, Democratic leaders, and advocates for immigrants and refugees.”

Warnock’s office told us last night that he stands by his comments that the time is not right to lift Title 42.

“Senator Warnock believes in protecting the humanity of migrants at the border, but before this policy is rescinded, the Administration should present a plan for how it will ensure our border security has the manpower, infrastructure, humanitarian and legal resources they need to prevent this policy change from making an already dire humanitarian situation worse,” the statement said.

Warnock has engaged with the Latino community on this issue and more, his representatives say, and he will continue to do so. Warnock’s office said his goal is for Congress to work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, an elusive task that has plagued lawmakers for years.

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The vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to begin around 1:45 p.m. this afternoon, per an agreement Senate Leader Chuck Schumer struck with Republicans on Wednesday night.

The exact timing will depend on how many members want to speak in debate prior to the vote. Look for Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock to be among those who deliver a floor speech. Once the vote happens, we expect Jackson to be pretty easily confirmed to become the first Black woman to serve on the high court.

Only a majority is needed. And with three Republicans already indicating they will support her – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah – Vice President Kamala Harris likely won’t even be needed to break a tie.

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State Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is campaigning for Georgia Secretary of State, has won a top award from one of the nation’s most prominent political groups.

EMILY’s List, which supports Democratic women campaigning for office, has named Nguyen its 2022 Rising Star. In a press release announcing the honor, EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler notes that Nguyen is the first Asian American woman to be elected as a Democrat in the Georgia General Assembly. It also notes her activism on reproductive and voting rights.

“Nguyen has shaped history through her fierce defense of democracy during her time in office as she led the successful effort to restore voting rights to over 53,000 people impacted by a racist voter suppression policy in Georgia, and fought back against the Trump campaign’s false claims of fraud after the 2020 presidential election,” the statement said.

The group’s first ever winner of the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award was Stacey Abrams, and that was back in 2014 before she ran for governor and became the political juggernaut we know today. Another winner was Ayanna Pressley back in 2015 when she was a Boston City Council member and before she won a seat in the U.S. House.

Online voters select the winner from a slate of nominees. The award will be presented to Nguyen during a gala on May 3.

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The political organization founded by Stacey Abrams is endorsing its first candidate of the 2022 election cycle. And it’s not the Democratic gubernatorial contender, although it’s for an office near-and-dear to her.

Fair Fight PAC backed Bentley Hudgins for the Atlanta-based House district that Abrams once represented and is now held by outgoing state Rep. Bee Nguyen.

The organization picked Hudgins over several other contenders including Saira Draper, who headed the voter protection initiative at the Democratic Party of Georgia before stepping down to run for the open seat.

It’s hard not to see this as a swipe at Draper, particularly given the quotes from the group’s leadership.

“Bentley is the clear choice in the election for any Georgian concerned about protecting voting rights,” said Andre Fields, Fair Fight’s political director.

The organization’s announcement went on to describe Hudgins, a longtime activist who would be the first openly nonbinary lawmaker in the General Assembly, as “the voting rights candidate in this race.”

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Get ready for a weeklong debate gauntlet in the race for Georgia governor.

While Republican Senate frontrunner Herschel Walker indicated he’ll skip showdowns with his GOP rivals, Gov. Brian Kemp said he’ll participate in four debates against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

For weeks, Perdue didn’t give a formal response. That changed Wednesday when he agreed to a trio of events. It will start with an April 24 debate on WSB, followed by an April 28 debate hosted by Gray TV.

Then comes the May 1 debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club. Perdue’s camp suggested more could be added to the calendar.

Consider Kemp’s campaign unimpressed by the delay. Spokesman Cody Hall accused him of “dodging debates” by ducking a fourth that would have been televised by Nexstar.

“Georgians want a fighter like Brian Kemp who can beat Stacey Abrams a second time this November to make sure she’s never governor or our next president,” he said.

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On the topic of Herschel Walker, we reported earlier that he told a GOP audience he would skip a debate Saturday because he was accepting a Horatio Alger Award in Washington that day.

We got hold of the schedule, which indicates the three-day series of events will end Saturday morning – apparently giving Walker enough time to make it back for the evening debate.

Also: we have a takeout this morning that delves deeper into Walker’s “cruise control” strategy. Read it here.

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Candidates for 2022 races are stepping up their appearances on the campaign trail now that the legislative session has come and gone.

Gov. Brian Kemp will be in Dawsonville and Dahlonega today after more North Georgia stops yesterday.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has announced a statewide tour for next week while Congress takes its annual Easter and Passover recess.

And we hear fundraising calls have roared back, now that members of the General Assembly are free to start raising money again with the session complete.

But not everybody is back to the grind just yet. We’ve gotten multiple international ringtones while placing calls to lawmakers, some of whom snuck away for a family spring break between the 40-day session and the reelection crush.

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Gov. Brian Kemp’s allies are stepping up their attacks on Stacey Abrams’ finances after her campaign disclosure revealed she’s increased her wealth.

The AJC reported in mid-March that Abrams now has a net worth of roughly $3.17 million, up from roughly $100,000 in 2018. That’s thanks partly to a multimillion-dollar gig writing books and appearances on the speaking circuit.

The Republican Governors Association called on Abrams to disclose the details of her 37 paid speeches in 2021, which included a 12-stop nationwide speaking tour.

“Georgia voters deserve to know the source of Abrams’ growing wealth and whether she takes transparency seriously,” said RGA spokeswoman Maddie Anderson.

Abrams spokesman Seth Bringman fired back with a reminder that Kemp promised four years ago to release his tax returns but has yet to do so.

“Republican leaders celebrate success for themselves but not for Stacey Abrams, and they demand transparency from Stacey Abrams but not from themselves,” he said. “Brian Kemp promised Georgians four years ago that he would release his tax returns, and he broke that promise. Stacey Abrams released her returns in 2018 and will do so again.”

He said the campaign was already planning to voluntarily disclose other information about her paid speeches, which include several that were available online or open to the media.

“Our process will be thoughtful, comply with protocols and not be dictated by groups spending millions of dollars to support candidates who hide their tax returns from voters,” Bringman said.

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Fundraiser alert: Democrat Charlie Bailey is holding an April 18 event with strategist James Carville, former Gov. Roy Barnes and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to boost his lieutenant governor bid.

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Jake Evans, one of several candidates for the open 6th District House seat, is up with two new ads calling himself a “Constitutional warrior.”

The first ad highlights Evans’ role ahead of the 2020 elections, when he was one of three Georgia lawyers to file an amicus brief on behalf of the Pennsylvania Republican Party for a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (The Court turned down the case.)

The second ad says Evans “defended our religious liberties against liberals in court,” referring to a lengthy zoning dispute between an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention and the City of Clarkston.

Evans has the money to spend on ads, since he loaned his campaign $500,000. He also has the backing of multiple GOP old hands, including Newt Gingrich, a longtime client of Evans’ dad, lawyer Randy Evans.

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Cobb County’s rapid demographic changes were the focus of a presentation by the Atlanta Regional Commission at the State of the County gala recently, the Marietta Daily Journal reports.

The insights included data that showed the Vinings’ Smyrna area is now about 23% Asian, South Cobb is about 50% Black, and Mableton is about 40% Latino.

Said ARC: “From a demographic standpoint, that is big, fast, major change, and that is something we are seeing all over this country, and it’s really something we’re seeing all over this region is how the definition of ‘us’ is really changing pretty rapidly.”

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Floyd County named an interim elections supervisor this week after the chosen candidate, who was scheduled to begin work Thursday, decided on Wednesday not to take the job.

The Rome News-Tribune reports on the ongoing drama for the troubled Floyd County Board of Elections, which was dissolved by the state Legislature last year. It’s just one of many boards across the state struggling to fill key roles after the scrutiny of the 2020 elections.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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