Republicans are ramping up their attacks on Democrats over the ongoing crisis at the Southern border, including a new ad campaign accusing President Joe Biden of opening the border instead of focusing on opening schools and businesses.
A 30-second digital ad from the American Action Network, an affiliate of the pro-Republican Congressional Leadership Fund, launched Tuesday and is running in 16 Democratically-held House districts across the country. The spot encourages viewers to “tell Congress” to “enforce the law and stop the Biden border crisis.” It’s among the earliest Republican efforts to concentrate on the issue of the border and Biden’s handling of it.
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This new ad campaign amounts to a five-figure digital ad purchase, which is in line with AAN’s other recent campaigns attacking Democrats on school reopenings, Covid relief and their election-integrity legislation H.R. 1. It’s also part of a concerted effort by Republicans to target the administration’s immigration policies and comes with an eye toward next year’s midterm elections. Nearly every district the ad will run in was identified by the House Republican campaign arm as a target seat for 2022.
On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a delegation of 12 other House Republicans to a Border Patrol processing center in El Paso. In remarks he made following a tour of the facility, McCarthy also referred to the surge as a “Biden border crisis.”
“This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration. There’s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis,” said McCarthy.
Monday’s trek to El Paso comes days after several House Republicans held a press conference on Capitol Hill calling on Democrats to give more attention to the issue.
“Our constituents are on the frontlines bearing the brunt of the lawlessness and self-inflicted crisis at the border created by the Biden administration,” said Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas.
The sudden spike in children seeking to cross the southern border – more than 4,000 are currently being held at Border Patrol facilities – is due to several factors, including the devastation from two major hurricanes last year, as well as the toll the pandemic has taken on Central American countries. But there is also a perceived relaxation of border enforcement that has taken place under the Biden administration, which has reversed the Trump-era policy of turning away unaccompanied minors who show up at the border.
The political pressure on Biden is mounting in Washington, including from some fellow Democrats who have been critical of the President’s handling of the matter. While these Democrats are supportive of allowing children to stay, they wonder why the administration did not prepare for the consequences of the policy change before enacting it.
The House will vote on two immigration bills this week, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas plans to testify on the Hill Wednesday.
The Biden administration has begun to respond to this pressure. Over the weekend, Mayorkas tapped the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help process the waiting children. The administration also decided to terminate a Trump-era agreement that officials said discouraged sponsors, like parents or relatives, from coming forward to collect their children.
But Republicans sense a political opportunity and have zeroed in on the situation at the border as perhaps their most promising argument against the Biden administration. In Biden’s first several weeks in office, the GOP has struggled to find a potent line of attack on policy, retreating to the more comfortable ground of the culture war while generally refraining from mounting a concerted critique of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which enjoys broad-based support among voters yet did not receive a single Republican vote in Congress.
Democrats have dismissed the new focus on immigration from a GOP that was slamming the “cancelation” of the late children’s author Dr. Seuss.
“Well I guess their Dr. Seuss approach didn’t work for them,” said House speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. “So now they have to change the subject.”
But a debate over immigration, a signature issue of the Donald Trump administration, puts Republicans back on a familiar footing, say some in the party.
“Without question, this was the main issue that drove working-class voter support for Donald Trump,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican strategist. “If these voters think Biden has thrown the doors open and that’s why they’re showing up in bigger numbers, Democrats will pay a heavy price.”
CNN’s Annie Grayer contributed to this story.