With the midterms just three weeks away, Democrats campaigning in red states have been advised to spend “as little time as possible” talking about immigration, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times from centrist think tank Third Way and the more liberal Center For American Progress. (Editor’s note: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent newsroom housed at the Center for American Progress.)
The memo, which has been shared at a number of briefings for Democrats, says candidates in competitive races should neutralize any hardline immigration attacks levied by their Republican opponents, but focus primarily on healthcare and the effects of the GOP tax bill.
“It is very difficult to win on immigration with vulnerable voters in the states Trump carried in 2016,” the memo argues, suggesting that “even the most draconian of Republican policies,” such as the family separation crisis, ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and attempting to end Temporary Status Protection (TPS) for 300,000 immigrants hasn’t swayed voters Democrats lost in the 2016 election.
But just “neutralizing” the attacks may not be enough for Democrats, who are already bleeding support from the Latinx community. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll last month found that while Latino voters favored a Democratic Congress over a Republican one by 64-21 percent, self-reported interest in the election is low.
According to the poll, 49 percent of Latinx individuals said they have a high interest in the midterm elections, compared with 61 percent of white voters and 58 percent of voters overall.
While Democrats are focused on winning back white women voters they lost in 2016, they are leaving behind thousands of Latinx non-voters who aren’t feeling inspired enough by the Democratic candidates to turn out at the polls.
Republicans, meanwhile, have abandoned campaigning on tax reform and are instead doubling down President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration rhetoric, going as far as to spread dangerous misinformation.
According to CNN, more than $124 million has been spent on 280,000 immigration-related TV ads for House, Senate and governor races this year. In 2014, only $23 million was spend on just 44,000 spots.
An ad comissioned by the Senate Leadership Fund targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) for “leaving Missouri behind” by supporting sanctuary cities and amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
The ad is severely misleading in its interpretation of the 2013 “amnesty” bill McCaskill voted for. A fact check conducted by the Associated Press found that it wasn’t technically an amnesty bill at all:
Under the proposed legislation, immigrants living in the country illegally would not have become U.S. citizens immediately. The plan required immigrants to apply for a six-year provisional status. They would have had to pay a $500 fine and could have no felony convictions. Those who qualified could not access federal benefits such as health care or welfare. After a decade, those on provisional status would have been able to apply for permanent legal status if they agreed to a series of rules that included learning English and paying taxes and an additional $1,000 fine.
Others imply undocumented immigrants make communities more dangerous, echoing comments from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the topic of sanctuary cities.
“A young woman, gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should have been deported,” Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran says in the ad’s voiceover.
The Congressional Leadership Fund has attacked Sharice Davids, a Democratic candidate challenging anti-immigrant congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS), for supporting “open borders” and allowing “criminal illegal aliens” to flood the country.
While Davids has since backtracked on abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), she has never supported open borders.
Democrats have voiced outrage over the number of misleading ads by Republicans on Medicare For All, but there hasn’t been the same pushback on the GOP’s immigration lies.
It’s not like there is a shortage of immigration issues to be outraged about. Democrats can take their pick from a number of immigration horrors, whether it’s violating the international human rights of asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border or sending migrant children separated from their parents at the border back to countries with no one to pick them up.