Democrats’ cowardly fear that Biden ending Title 42 will cost them seats

In the wake of a much-needed move by the Biden administration to finally put an end to Title 42 — a cruel Trump administration policy that essentially blocked out the legal right of people to seek asylum at the U.S. southern border by relying on the false claim that asylum-seekers would bring Covid-19 to a country that was already in a pandemic — some Democratic senators are reportedly upset about the decision and accusing President Joe Biden’s policy of lacking a real plan.

The reports of Democrats’ anger at Biden are typical for a party that has never crafted an effective message to counter Republicans’ xenophobic views that migrants are a threat.

According to a Washington Post report last week, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, all Democrats facing re-election, are leading a “growing mutiny” against Biden’s Title 42 decision to avoid creating “chaotic conditions” at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The reports of Democrats’ anger at Biden are typical for a party that has never crafted an effective message to counter Republicans’ wholly inaccurate, extreme and xenophobic views that migrants are a direct threat to this nation. When it’s time to present a more accurate picture of how migration has benefited the United States, far too many Democrats lack courage.

The news of Title 42’s end is especially worrisome for Cortez Masto, the Senate’s first and only Latina. She won in 2016 in a state that has increasingly seen a rise in Latino voters, including in the midterm cycles. Cortez Masto said in a statement to the Nevada Current this month that ending Title 42 “is the wrong way to do this and it will leave the administration unprepared for a surge at the border,” adding that “we should be working to fix our immigration system by investing in border security and treating immigrant families with dignity. Instead, the administration is acting without a detailed plan.”

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In case Cortez Masto missed the memo from countless immigrant rights advocates, “treating immigrant families with dignity” starts by ending Title 42. In 2018, that two years before Title 42’s implementation, Cortez Masto correctly said then-President Donald Trump should stop using detained migrant children as “bargaining chips.” Now the same senator is facing re-election and criticizing Biden for putting an end to one of Trump’s worst policies

The inconsistent messaging from Cortez Masto illustrates how Democrats have lost the immigration debate to the GOP. Historically, much of the blame has been placed on moderate Democrats such as former President Bill Clinton, who miscast migration as a national security issue and emphasized detention over other, more humane solutions. Democrats continue to acquiesce to Republicans’ neo-nativist narratives when what they ought to do is present alternative narratives that combat Republican extremism. Overall, the country seems more preoccupied with news of migrant “waves” than actually wondering who are the faces behind a record number of crossings.

As my “In the Thick” podcast co-host Maria Hinojosa said Sunday on MSNBC: “The one thing the Biden administration can start to do is correct the narrative. This is not a threat. He is a welcoming president. We are a welcoming country.”

This is where Democrats are utterly failing. They have no response to the constant “no” from Republicans or to the political theater from leaders like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — who, in addition to exploiting migrants yet again by having them bused to Washington, caused an international economic problem with his response to Biden’s announcement that Title 42 will end next month. Abbott demanded increased inspections of trucks coming into the United States from Mexico, grinding trade across that border to a near halt.

That blatant attack on the U.S. economy was met with predictable political statements from Texas Democrats and the White House that lacked any teeth. As always, Democrats failed to actually fight.

That refusal to fight is also why the Republican narrative that all migration is bad dominates the American consciousness. Not surprisingly, Gallup recently reported that 58 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with immigration levels, which it said is “an eight-percentage-point increase in dissatisfaction since last year and a return to the 2019-2020 range.” Such a swing in a year’s time suggests that the current Democratic political strategy to lambast Republican immigration policies instead of offering new scenarios is just not working.

Democrats should be doubling down against the Republican narrative and creating a new one that properly casts migration as beneficial.

What Democrats should be doing is doubling down against the single Republican narrative and creating a new one that properly casts migration as good and beneficial to our country. Immigrant rights advocacy groups have shared plenty of facts to easily tear down Republican fears of a multiethnic, multiracial, immigrant-friendly nation, but for some bizarre reason, Democrats still feel the need to come across as tough on immigration. Why? Because they are afraid of a Republican backlash? The Republican backlash they will get anyway? Instead of trying to win a fight they will never win, why can’t Democrats lead with other information, such as the many polls that show that close to 7 in 10 Americans favor a path to citizenship for Dreamers, temporary protected status holders and undocumented workers who were essential during the pandemic?

In Arizona and Nevada, Latino voters are just starting to become a political force, and it’s important that Democrats invest more in those states. The 2020 Biden victory proved that Latino voters there made a difference, but two Senate Democrats from those states openly questioning Biden’s plan to discontinue Title 42 is not the way to keep those voters. This is the time for Democrats to be brave and to remember who got them into office.

Latinos are still on track to vote at historic levels in 2022, but they need something to get excited about. Inconsistent messaging on Title 42 is exposing the same Democratic hypocrisy that has plagued the party in the past. Imagine if Democrats were braver. At least they’d be giving that burgeoning Latino political force something to vote for.