With all the focus of late on inflation and its impact on the coming midterm elections, we may be overlooking another issue gaining traction among the American public: immigration.
More than 4 in 10 Americans told Gallup in March that they have a “great deal” of worry about “illegal immigration,” which is how the firm framed the issue in its survey. That number, which was consistent with Gallup’s polling last year as well, is on the high end of their survey findings on the issue over the past decade.
And considerable concern is primarily on the rise among politically critical independent voters. In 2018, just 3 in 10 independents said they had a great deal of concern about the issue. Now that number stands at 39%.
What should be even more concerning for President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress is that these numbers from Gallup came before the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would be suspending Title 42, a provision that allows border agents to turn away immigrants seeking asylum which has been in place since March 2020.
The Biden administration said earlier this month that Title 42 will be rescinded on May 23. And in the weeks since that announcement, a number of Democratic incumbents and candidates have voiced their concerns with the possibility that the US-Mexico border will be overwhelmed.
“Until there is a plan, you got to have secure borders,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner told CNN at the end of March. “To do something that might invite a doubling, tripling, quadrupling of numbers at the border, that is not in the best interest of America, that is not in the best interest of the administration, or the people who are trying to go through the process.”
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm, echoed those concerns this week. “Unless we have a well thought out plan, I think it is something that should be revisited and perhaps delayed,” he said. “I’m going to defer judgment on that until I give the administration the opportunity to fully articulate what that plan is. But I share … concerns of some of my colleagues.”
To be clear: Inflation and gas prices – as well as more general concerns about the state and direction of the economy – continue to dominate most Americans’ minds.
But, immigration – and the administration’s ability to control it or not (particularly in light of the Title 42 decision) – is nudging its way into the midterm conversation as well. A glut of people trying to cross the border once Title 42 is rescinded – and the resulting media coverage – could make the issue top of mind for many more voters.
And judging from the polling data, that would take what already looks like a tough election for Democrats and make it even worse.