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Biden’s Rightward Shift on Immigration Upsets Advocates

In his 2020 campaign, Joe Biden vowed to undo former President Trump’s immigration policies, expressing frustration with a policy setting limits on the number of asylum seekers accepted each day at the southern border. This year, Biden backed a Senate proposal that would have set daily limits on border crossings, and Democrats are planning to campaign to reelect him by emphasizing that Republicans caused the deal to collapse. Democrats are reframing the immigration debate, going from embracing more welcoming policies in response to the Trump administration’s programs at the border, including its separation of hundreds of immigrant children from their parents, to declaring that they can get tough on border security and adopt policies long sought by Republicans, the Associated Press reports. Biden’s shift risks straining his support from immigrants and their advocates who campaigned for him in 2020, but it appears to be working for Democrats after they won a special election in New York state.


Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat, said he does not think the reframing of the immigration debate will backfire. “I think that we can agree that it’s far better under a Biden administration than a potential rerun of Trump,” Espaillat said. To many immigrant advocates, the deal Biden negotiated with leaders in the Senate showed how a president who had long deemed Trump’s border policies inhumane was willing to curtail asylum in exchange for wartime aid for Ukraine. More than 130 organizations sent a letter to Biden opposing the deal and the tougher standards for asylum. Some immigration activists expressed frustration with Biden and a lack of enthusiasm to go knock on doors for him at a recent gathering of more than a dozen advocacy groups in Arizona. Michael Kagan of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, criticized the Biden-backed proposal as moving far away from what many Democrats have considered to be necessary immigration reform. Kagan argued Biden’s shift to the right would backfire politically. “Unfortunately, he largely adopted Donald Trump’s terms of the debate that a success is just when fewer people come,” Kagan said. “If that’s the goal you set out, I think voters will wonder, ‘Well, then why shouldn’t I just elect the harshest person possible?’”

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