Asked if legal immigration should be increased, should be decreased or should stay the same, a surprising 30 percent want immigration increased, 49 percent to stay the same and only 17 percent to decrease. Even among Republicans, only 28 percent want it decreased.
The wall, as it has been from the start of Trump’s presidency, is a loser . Voters oppose it, 58 percent to 39 percent; only Republicans and non-college-educated whites approve of the idea.
As for dreamers, 67 percent want them to stay and get citizenship, 8 percent want them to stay without citizenship and a measly 19 percent want them thrown out. Even a plurality (48 percent) of Republicans want them to stay with citizenship.
Similar figures on dreamers come from the latest Pew Research poll. (“Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children, while just 20% are opposed.”) A majority of Republicans (54 percent) favor legalizing dreamers. As for the wall, “Currently, 56% of Americans are opposed to expanding the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, while 40% favor doing so,” according to Pew.
Likewise, a CBS News poll finds: “Sixty-seven percent of Americans call it unacceptable to separate children from parents who’ve been caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. … President Trump’s handling of immigration, generally, gets lower approval now — at 35 percent — than it did in May when it was 40 percent. Overall approval from Republicans has declined ten points to 73 percent now, from 83 percent in May.” Unlike in the Quinnipiac poll, only 36 percent found it acceptable; 39 percent of Republicans in the CBS News survey found it unacceptable. (About a quarter of those surveyed said they didn’t know enough about the issue or had no answer.)
There are several important points to extract from this data.
First, the most radical policies favored by Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions and Trump’s anti-immigrant base — throwing out dreamers and separating kids from parents — get anywhere between 27 percent and 35 percent support. Republicans in Congress who are frozen by fear of challenging Trump will run into a buzzsaw of outrage back home, outside deep-red enclaves. Hey, even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) felt compelled to offer his own solution to prevent child separation. You do wonder how long Miller and Sessions are going to cheer on Trump’s hard line, even if it means incinerating the GOP majorities.
Second, despite Trump’s attempt to blur the difference between dreamers and criminals, support for allowing dreamers to stay and become citizens remains exceptionally high. While Trump has managed to distract voters from the inequitable and cruel possibility of deporting young people who are fully Americanized and productive members of their community with a worse horror (i.e. family separation), dreamers remain an issue, especially in border states. As we hear more heartrending stories of deported individuals, Republicans will have to defend an inhumane and unfair practice of visiting the sins of the parents on the child.
Third, you sure do get the feeling that Republicans lack compassion for children, especially brown and black ones. Lining up behind a president who flaunts his racism (“shithole countries”), picks on African American football players, has a single African American and only one Hispanic in his Cabinet and, among all his judicial appointments (as of late April) nominated only a single African American and three Hispanics, is helping cement the image of the GOP as the angry, unsympathetic white-guy party.
The gender gap — aggravated by issues such as child separation, Trump’s support for Roy Moore, his payoff of Stormy Daniels and his 1960s “Mad Men” attitude toward women — is rising even among white women and married women who used to be GOP backers. Premising an entire campaign and presidency on white grievance, especially white male grievance, may whittle the party down to the point where even high white turnout cannot save its candidates.
Fourth, performances such as the one delivered by the Homeland Security Department Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday — in which she feigned ignorance of the pictures of children in kennel-like enclosures; insisted kids were not being abused since they are given meals, TV, etc.; claimed not to know why girls and younger children have not been visible in images; denied that the children are being used as pawns (while demanding that Congress come up with a comprehensive solution) and blamed others for the policy — will serve to further enrage voters. Her snippy, high-handed tone and stunning lack of empathy reveal the heartlessness that defines this administration. Like so many others in the administration, she chooses to remain and lie about a monstrous policy rather than quit and thereby maintain a modicum of dignity and integrity.
Finally, if Trump really does double down on the child separation policy, the midterm elections in places such as Texas, Arizona, California and Florida could be disastrous for the GOP. Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), broke with the president on the issue, as did vulnerable House members such as Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Will Hurd (R-Tex.). In November, it won’t be enough for Republicans to say they opposed the policy; they will have to show what they did and why voters should keep voting to sustain a GOP House or Senate majority that hasn’t had the nerve to stand up to a monstrously cruel president.