Saturday, May 25, 2024

After midterms, Democratic party trying to figure out their immigration priorities

Democratic candidates largely avoided engaging President Trump as he fanned public fears over a migrant caravan ahead of the midterm elections, but they also avoided confronting a key question for themselves: What kind of immigration system does the party stand for in the Trump era?

Some Democrats are pushing the idea of a new comprehensive immigration plan, others want to focus attention on the narrower goal of granting legal status to DREAMers. But the boldest, and most controversial, Democratic rebuttal has come from progressive newcomers, most prominently Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who swept to victory in New York and calls to “abolish ICE”.

Some party leaders, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), echoed that sentiment. But other prominent Democrats urged restraint, fearful of overreaching and spurring backlash.

Trump is likely to further roil the debate with comments like the ones from Saturday when he said this “would be a very good time to do a shutdown” of the government over the $5 billion he has demanded to fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats oppose the project and are not likely to agree to further wall funding in a government spending bill that must pass by Dec. 7 or trigger a partial government shutdown.

The wall fight could further highlight Democratic divisions on immigration. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has said the early focus will be on a bill to offer legal status to DREAMers. Such a measure, which polling shows has widespread public support, also could contain provisions to protect immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras and elsewhere who have been living in the country under the TPS Trump has sought to end.

Other top Democrats, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said the party should quickly offer a comprehensive immigration bill allowing Democrats to “show what they stand for.” If Democrats advanced a sweeping bill out of the House, it would force the Republican-led Senate to try to muster a response, he added, and that could prompt both sides “to negotiate something that’s reasonable versus [Trump’s] positions, which are just off the wall.”