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From the Center

Late last week, yet another border state governor lambasted the Biden Administration for its inability to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. The frustrated governor called up the state’s National Guard and ordered them to deploy at a recently closed border crossing and to provide support to the existing federal and local enforcement presence in the area. The governor referred to the “unmitigated humanitarian crisis” that the increased migrant flow had caused and promised that the state would step in to protect its residents.

"Yet again, the federal government is refusing to do its job to secure our border and keep our communities safe," the governor said in a press statement. “Despite continued requests for assistance, the Biden administration has refused to deliver desperately needed resources to Arizona’s border.”

We’ve become accustomed to Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas taking these types of steps to lay blame on a Democratic president. But Arizona governor Katie Hobbs is a Democrat, and when she lashed out at a president of her own party last Friday, she became the latest in a growing number of Democratic state and local elected officials who have been willing to publicly criticize the White House for not moving more forcefully on border-related issues.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, once a close ally of the president, now says that “the Biden border crisis is hurting the country” and proclaimed after his trip to Washington earlier this month that “help is not on the way”. More politely, the mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Denver have gone to the White House begging for assistance and Democratic governors in Illinois, Colorado and Massachusetts have all spoken publicly about the need for additional federal support.

When Biden proposed including additional funding for border security in his Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan foreign aid package earlier this fall, it seemed like a politically savvy way to placate Republicans, provide help to his own party’s state and local officials most impacted by the crisis, and hopefully shore up his dismal poll numbers on immigration policy. But GOP leaders quickly pocketed the money he offered and have since raised the ante considerably by insisting on a range of border-related proposals, including heightened standards for asylum seekers, increased detention and deportation, and even more stringent Trump-era policies.

Republicans are extremely aware of how much Biden wants to continue providing funding to Ukraine. They also know that he would like for voters to see him moving more aggressively on immigration and border issues. So they are pushing hard. When negotiations with congressional Democrats stalled, White House aides stepped in and made it clear that the president was open to many of the GOP proposals that he and many other members of his party have harshly criticized in the past.

The result was an explosion on Biden’s left flank, as Latino lawmakers, immigration reform advocates and other progressives begged the White House not to go forward and threatened Biden’s team with political retribution next November if they did. For now, the president’s advisors appear to be willing to risk disappointing their liberal allies on immigration policy (and on the U.S. role in the Middle East) under the belief that the motivating force of abortion rights and the specter of Trump returning to office will keep them on board.

Negotiations will continue this week, and so we are about to learn how much the Republicans can demand, how much Biden will give them, and how much the Democratic base will tolerate. But the fate of this particular piece of legislation has distracted us from a broader change in American politics – the almost complete reversal of the way we discuss immigration reform in this country.

For decades, most proposed changes in immigration policy focused on making it easier rather than harder for those from other countries to move here. As the population here has become more demographically diverse, public opinion has become increasingly supportive of relaxing migration standards rather than enhancing them.

That is no longer the case. Currently, 15 percent of U.S. residents were born in other countries, an all-time high. History tells us that when immigration levels peak, voters tend to become more restrictive on border and migrant policies. Most Republicans sense this shift, but many Democrats do too. Whether the U.S. sends more aid to Ukraine or not, the immigration debate will sound a lot different in the years ahead than it has in the past.

Want to talk about this topic more? Join Dan for his webinar "Politics In The Time of Coronavirus." Or read more of Dan’s writing at: www.danschnurpolitics.com.

Dan Schnur is a Professor at the University of California – Berkeley, Pepperdine University, and the University of Southern California, where he teaches courses in politics, communications and leadership. Dan is a No Party Preference voter, but previously worked on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns, serving as the national Director of Communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain and the chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson. He has a Center bias.

This piece was reviewed and edited by Isaiah Anthony, Deputy Blog Editor (Center bias).

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