Although Americans generally support immigration, there is a growing willingness to embrace stricter enforcement measures, presenting a potential challenge for hard-line proponents of anti-immigrant policies in the upcoming 2024 elections.
Both Democrats and Republicans are sounding the alarm about a perceived “crisis” at the border, fueled by record encounters reported by the Border Patrol. Adding to the concern, former President Donald Trump has vowed to build upon the tough immigration stances of his initial term. This has raised concerns among immigration advocates and even some conservative Republicans.
Trump’s rhetoric has intensified, likening immigrants to a threat, using language reminiscent of Nazi ideology. He has proposed drastic measures, including a sweeping deportation initiative inspired by the Eisenhower-era “Operation Wetback” and the creation of detention camps drawing parallels to Japanese internment camps.
His agenda encompasses ending the constitutional right to birthright citizenship, utilizing a World War II-era law to unilaterally detain and deport non-U.S. citizens, and cutting off funding for transportation and shelter for those without legal status, according to The Associated Press.
This unfolds against a backdrop of diminishing support for immigration among Americans. A June Gallup poll revealed that 68% of Americans still believe immigration is beneficial for the country, marking the lowest percentage since 2014. This figure is a decline from 77% in 2020. Another NBC News poll found that three out of four registered voters advocate increased spending on border security to address immigration concerns.
In cities traditionally welcoming to immigrants, leaders express resource strain due to the influx of newcomers, causing tension between long-time undocumented workers and newly arrived asylum-seekers. This has led to divisions and concerns about the broader implications of certain policies.
Immigration advocacy groups and progressives caution against a rushed response to the perceived “border crisis,” emphasizing the potential risks to citizens. Tom Jawetz, senior fellow for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, highlights the broader impact of Trump’s immigration plan, stating, “Citizens are at risk, too.”
With immigration poised to be a pivotal issue in the 2024 elections, hard-liners are testing the waters to exploit the growing skepticism towards immigration. Progressives worry that Americans may not fully grasp the wider consequences of these policies.
Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice, asserts that Trump’s vision extends beyond immigration policy, expressing concern that he aims to redefine the nation’s identity. She emphasizes the importance of not becoming desensitized to his rhetoric and actions.
Todd Schulte, president and executive director of FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group, warns against the potential violation of civil liberties and basic rights if policies targeting millions based on immigration status are implemented. He references Arizona’s SB 1070 law as a precedent, which faced legal challenges for unfairly targeting Latino residents before certain provisions were struck down.
Looking ahead, some states may explore pushing the boundaries of immigration enforcement, testing the willingness of the conservative Supreme Court to revisit laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070, which traditionally fall under federal jurisdiction.