Joe Biden is enjoying strong approval ratings as he approaches the end of his first 100 days in office. He has broad support for his approach to the most pressing issues, the economy and the pandemic. The one place he has problems is immigration. Voters want solutions to the problems on the border. A new poll, though, shows North Carolinians support Biden’s approach to addressing the situation and that Democrats have an opportunity to push through popular reforms that could put this issue to rest—at least for awhile.
Historically, Republicans have blocked measures to address the immigration problem. Fifteen years ago, George W. Bush pushed a plan that had bipartisan support that would have provided a path to citizenship while securing our borders. The GOP’s right-wing, which now is dominant, blocked the bill, calling it amnesty and rallying their base against it.
The North Carolina poll shows the GOP is out of the mainstream on the issue and could find themselves on the wrong side of voters if they continue their obstructionism. In particular, more than 70% of voters, including more than 60% of independent voters, support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers as long as they meet certain requirements. Republicans are the only group with a majority that opposes a path to citizenship.
In addition, voters reject the GOP approach used by Trump. They don’t want “stronger” border enforcement; they want smarter border enforcement. And they want it to be humane. Instead of making immigration so painful it discourages newcomers, voters want to upgrade our border security using new and better technology. They don’t want more agents and crackdowns. They want to reform our immigration system so it keeps our borders secure but also keeps families together.
Democrats should view the immigration dilemma as an opportunity instead of a risk. The country is tired of hearing horror stories on the border and they understand that our immigration system is broken. They don’t want open borders but they don’t want kids in cages, either. Biden and Democrats in Congress should lay out their plan and push it through Congress. Republicans opposing it will look like obstructionists playing to their base. Democrats, with the support of their own base and a solid majority of independents, could be seen as solving a problem that has plagued the country for two decades. Republicans would have a choice to either stick with a base that is increasingly outside of the mainstream or try to pull their party back to the middle of the country.