The Immigration plan may bring in troubles for Biden’s administration. President Joe Biden is confronting the political risk that comes with grand ambition. As one of his first acts, Biden offered a sweeping immigration overhaul last week that would provide a path to US citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally.
It would also codify provisions wiping out some of President Donald Trump’s signature hard-line policies, including trying to end existing, protected legal status for many immigrants brought to the US as children and crackdowns on asylum rules.
It’s precisely the type of measure that many Latino activists have longed for, particularly after the tough approach of the Trump era. But it must compete with Biden’s other marquee legislative goals, including a $1.9 trillion plan to combat the corona virus, an infrastructure package that promotes green energy initiatives, and a “public option” to expand health insurance.
In the nest of circumstances, enacting such a broad range of legislation would be difficult. But in a narrowly divided Congress, it could be impossible. And that has Latinos, the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc, worried that Biden and congressional leaders could cut deals that weaken the finished product too much or fail to pass anything at all.
“This cannot be a situation where simply a visionary bill a message bill gets sent to Congress and nothing happens with it,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Centre, which advocates for low-income immigrants.
“There’s an expectation that they will deliver and that there is a mandate now for Biden to be unapologetically pro-immigrant and have a political imperative to do so, and the Democrats do as well.”
If Latino ultimately feels betrayed, the political consequences for Democrats could be long-lasting. The 2020 election provided several warning signs that, despite Democratic efforts to build a multiracial coalition, Latino support could be at risk.
Biden already was viewed sceptically by some Latino activists for his association with former President Barack Obama, who was called the “deporter in chief” for the record number of immigrants who were removed from the country during his administration. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont defeated Biden in last year’s Nevada caucuses and California primary, which served as early barometers of the Latino vote.
In his race against Trump, Biden won the support of 63% of Latino voters compared with Trump’s 35%, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 110,000 voters nationwide. But Trump narrowed the margin somewhat in some swing states such as Nevada and also got a bump fro, Latino men, 39% of whom backed him compared with 33% of Latino women.
Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1996 to carry Arizona, in part because of strong grassroots backing from Mexican American groups opposed to strict GOP immigration policies going back decades. But he lost Florida by underperforming in its largest Hispanic county, Miami-Dade, where the Trump campaign’s anti-socialism message resonated with Cuban and some Venezuelan Americans.
Biden also fell short in Texas even though running mate Kamala Harris devoted valuable, late campaign time there. The ticket lost some sparsely populated but heavily Mexican American counties along with Mexican border, where law enforcement agencies are major employers and the GOP’s zero-tolerance immigration policy resonated.
There were more warning signs for House Democrats, who lost four California seats and two in South Florida while failing to pick up any in Texas. Booming Hispanic populations reflected in new US census figures may see Texas and Florida gain congressional districts before 2022’s midterm elections, which could make correcting the problem all the more pressing for Democrats.