May 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats try to outflank the GOP on border security

Rep. Hillary Scholten leaning onto Rep. Angie Craig on the House floor.

Reps. Angie Craig (seated) and Hillary Scholten. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democrats in Congress are attempting to flip the script on border security, going on offense to try to blunt Republican attacks on a central 2024 election issue.

Why it matters: The strategy shift reflects growing public hawkishness on the issue, even among Democratic voters.

  • "I am personally encouraged, as someone who has been talking about immigration for two election cycles," Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Mich.), a former immigration lawyer, told Axios.
  • "This is an area that Democrats have really left for Republicans to define, unnecessarily."

Driving the news: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday released a memo titled "Democrats Will Confront Republican Efforts to Kill Border Security Bill on the Campaign Trail."

  • The memo, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, says Democrats are "going on the offensive against disingenuous far-right political attacks" by highlighting Republicans' opposition to the bipartisan border deal.
  • It points to Rep. Tom Suozzi's (D-N.Y.) successful strategy of leaning into immigration in a February special election to replace former GOP Rep. George Santos, as well as polling that shows the border deal was broadly popular with voters.

What we're hearing: Scholten told Axios that "immigration is popping in almost every single type of conversation that [Democrats] have as a caucus right now, and there is a strong desire to ... do something about it."

  • Scholten also said it's been a "huge issue" among her constituents, adding that there's "almost no stakeholder group that comes through my office that doesn't talk to me about the importance of immigration reform."

The other side: Republicans are scoffing at the strategy. "Most folks see the President's border disaster and know better. Trump took action where Biden has refused to," swing-district Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told Axios.

  • Another swing-district Republican, Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), said immigration will "severely damage Joe Biden's re-election" and that the president "has no good options remaining on his border fiasco."
  • National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Will Reinert, pointing to Democrats' votes against GOP immigration bills, said if they want to "turn up the volume" on the issue, "we are happy to blow out their eardrums with their own votes."

Catch up quick: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is discussing holding another vote on a bipartisan border compromise that Republicans rejected in February, Axios' Stef Kight reported.

  • A group of swing-seat House Democrats led by Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) sent President Biden a letter this week urging him to "immediately take further action to restore order at the Southern border and fix our broken immigration system."

Biden, for his part, is introducing a new rule to speed up the removal of migrants who don't qualify for asylum.

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