“Dallas, Texas, United States — May 1, 2010 a large group of demonstrators carry banners and wave flags during a pro-immigration march on May Day.” Credit: iStock, FireAtDusk

A Cycle of Unnecessary Anger

Surprisingly, Glenn Youngkin seemed to avoid immigration as a primary point of attack on the path to his Virginia win.

On October 21, clearly frustrated by the approach, the Washington Times reported that Youngkin, “hasn’t aired a single radio or TV ad about immigration at a time when the U.S.-Mexico border is a mess, Republican governors are sending National Guard troops to help and Republican politicians are making pilgrimages to be photographed with Border Patrol agents.”

Less than zero chance this will be the norm for the midterm elections.

As I sat down to this note, my colleague, Jen, texted me a screenshot that began with “FIRST IN PLAYBOOK.”

Jen rarely texts good news.

Just so happened the NRCC had released a new memo testing various immigration-related reconciliation measures that, according to Politico, “is an indicator of the messaging the GOP aims to use in the midterm elections.” The memo leads with, “Democrats’ open borders policies are politically toxic,” and makes the case that, “This polling shows broad, powerful, and intense opposition to measures that erase or eliminate border and immigration control.”

This, given the new 2021 American Values Survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, makes a tough situation tougher.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, William A. Galston of Brookings notes that Republican voters are more concerned about America “losing its culture and identity” than in previous years, “but it’s a bipartisan concern” that a third of Democrats share. And while 62% of Republicans say that being born in the U.S. is part of being “truly American,” 43% of Democrats do as well.

For his weekly newsletter, White Too Long, founder and CEO of PRRI, Robert P. Jones, points out, “There are only three issues, for example, that a majority of Republicans see as critical issues to them personally: immigration (64%), terrorism (60%), and crime (53%). White evangelical Protestants, who comprise the base of the GOP, largely share this perspective, although only two issues reached majority as critical issues: terrorism (57%) and immigration (54%), with crime slightly lower at 46%.”

By contrast, there are five entirely different issues that Democrats say are personally critical to them. Of course.

“As a national issue immigration motivates anti-immigrant voters in a single-minded way, but pro-immigration voters have a long list of things they support, Mary C. Waters explained to the New York Times’ Thomas B. Edsall. “In that way it works for the right.”

At the risk of oversimplifying: Conservatives are angry about immigration, liberals (without Trump to focus them on immigration) are angry about everything else. And, the immigrant rights movement might actually be angrier than all of them.

Let me unpack that last point.

The Democrats had a supermajority in 2009 and 2010 which was used to advance Obamacare. Which passed the House of Representatives on March 21, 2010.

That very same day, over 250,000 people attended an immigrant rights rally on the Washington Mall. A rally the Forum played a leadership role in convening.

At the rally, the NY Times’ Julia Preston interviewed Rudy Romero, 19, and Andrea Rentaria, 23, who had boarded buses in Colorado 36 hours earlier.

“We’ve been waiting for so long,” Romero told Preston. “I know it takes time, but a promise is a promise. We are demanding it today.”

Preston wrote, “’I understand you have to take care of health care,’” Ms. Rentaria said. ‘As soon as we’re done with that,’ she said, immigration should be next.”

I don’t know Rudy or Andrea. But they must now be in their 30’s. Maybe they qualified for DACA. Maybe they didn’t. Either way, without any legislative action, I can only imagine how angry they must be.

That anger is now directed at the Democrats by a not insignificant number of organizations pressuring members to overrule the parliamentarian and include a path to citizenship in reconciliation. In other words, make good on that promise of more than 10 years ago.

Which means the immigration movement’s anger feeds the anger of the conservative base. It is a vicious cycle of anger that is so hard to break.

(Meanwhile, to make sure things get really ugly, over on Fox News, Stephen Miller rails about how Afghan culture is incompatible with the U.S.)

In talking to friends on either side of the political ledger pushing for reform, their response is pretty much the same: The other side should be more realistic and less angry.

The problem, as the American Values Survey found, is that the sides (and there are more than two) live in completely different worlds.

If reconciliation fails to achieve legalization, making immigration “the next thing” and breaking the cycle of unnecessary anger would require enormous political courage and a dramatic reorientation of strategies.

All of which would depend on those who want border security and those who want legalization to trust each other.

Since the Houston Cheaters, I mean Astros, were denied victory again, I feel like we have a chance?

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President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.

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Ali Noorani

Ali Noorani

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.

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