Poll shows Biden’s border policy backfired on Latinos


Biden poll Latinos
David Lienemann, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Bill King for RealClearPolitics

A University of Houston poll was released last week on the outlook for the March primary election and November general election in Texas. The poll predicted, unsurprisingly, that Biden and Trump were headed for another showdown in November, and that Trump was ahead of Biden in that rematch by 9% in Texas.

However, what I suspect Biden’s campaign team found shocking was that Biden was losing to Trump with Latino voters by a 47-41 margin. Only 55% of Latino Democratic primary voters said they planned to vote for Biden. The remaining 45% were undecided.

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I watched for years as political pundits and consultants from both parties, who were mostly white, made assumptions about how Latino voters felt about the issues and how they were likely to vote. The near-universal mistake these consultants and experts have made for years has been that immigration is the key issue facing the Latino community and that they want more liberal immigration laws. Both hypotheses were wrong.

First, there is no monolithic “Latino community.” Those of Mexican-American descent are the predominant group, but there are also Americans from every other country in Central and South America. And they all have very different perspectives on almost every aspect of life, and especially politics.

Even among those whose families originally immigrated from Mexico there are big differences. I have a Latino friend who is a sixth generation Texan. One day he joked with me that he didn’t know he was a “minority” until he went to college. I can assure you that his views on immigration are very different than those of a recent immigrant from Mexico who is trying to bring other family members into the country.

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Furthermore, immigration is certainly not the only issue that worries Latin Americans. A couple of years ago I had dinner with some members of the Texas House of Representatives about the prospect of starting a new party in Texas. The group was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. All but one of the Democratic members were Latino.

I went around the room asking each person why they were dissatisfied with their existing party affiliation. One of the Latino members told me that his family was devout Catholics and against abortion. He was tired of his party “looking down on him” because of his faith. Another said, “Defund the Police my a#$, half my family works in law enforcement.” Another shared that his family worked in the oilfield services industry and was concerned that Biden’s green energy program would hurt their family’s business and the economy of the area he represented. Immigration was never mentioned during the dinner.

In a recent UT poll, 71% of Latinos support “strengthening U.S. border security and providing the Border Patrol with more technology, infrastructure, and personnel.” This was not far behind whites at 85% and African Americans at 81%. It seems clear that Biden’s lax border policies are hurting him in Texas across every demographic, including Latinos.

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But there are nuances in the polls. While Latinos generally feel about the same as their non-Latino neighbors about the state of the border, their opinions on other immigration issues vary significantly. For example, only 29% support the immediate deportation of immigrants here illegally, while 41% strongly oppose it. That compares to 51% of whites who support immediate deportation.

Likewise, 68% of Latinos support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants compared to 56% of whites. 61% of Latinos favor tougher penalties for employers who hire workers here illegally compared to 82% of whites. Latinos also support the continuation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, often referred to as Dreamers) at significantly higher levels than whites.

All of this suggests that a majority of Latinos, and at least a significant plurality of the rest of Americans, want the government to control the border but at the same time want a more rational system for welcoming new immigrants and those who are already here. Biden could make an impact on immigration, but for some inexplicable reason he has persisted in his lax border policies.

I do not subscribe to the theory that the president’s intention was to bring new Democratic voters into the country, nor to the even more absurd “white replacement” conspiracy theories. Those of us who have worked in elections know that trying to register and get noncitizens to the polls is virtually impossible, at least on any scale that could influence the outcome of an election.

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When a third of American citizens still don’t vote in presidential elections, it’s much easier to get qualified voters to the polls. By the way, most non-voters would probably favor Democratic candidates. Additionally, many of the Latino immigrants coming to the country have views on many issues, such as abortion, that are at odds with the Democratic platform.

This New York Times story attempted to put a noble face on Biden’s immigration policy disaster. But even these pro-Biden reporters have struggled to find a rational explanation for his border policies. I think the simplest explanation is that every time he changes party control of the White House, the new president feels the need to reverse all of his predecessor’s policies, whether they worked or not.

And that’s why we do little or nothing. Trump was obsessed with repealing Obamacare, even though it was supported by a growing majority of Americans during his presidency and most analyzes showed it slowed rising healthcare costs.

Biden arrived at the White House with the same mentality. If he had simply admitted that some of Trump’s border policies were working and then pushed for some badly needed reforms to the immigration system, he wouldn’t be in the mess he is in now. But as Thomas Paine perceptively observed, “A man under the tyranny of party spirit is the greatest slave on earth, for none but himself can deprive him of liberty of thought.”

Where is Thomas Paine when we need him?

Bill King is a businessman and lawyer, former columnist and member of the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle. He has held numerous appointed and elected positions, including mayor of his hometown. He writes on a wide range of political and public policy issues. Bill is the author of “Unapologetically Moderate.”

Reprinted with permission from RealClearWire.

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