The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has made immigration the top issue for Republicans seeking to regain control of the Congress in the midterm elections.
Polls show people are unhappy with President Joe Biden's handling of the migrant surge that began after he took office, The Hill reported Thursday.
Migrants, including thousands of children, have sought entry to the U.S. to escape poverty and violence in Central American nations. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has pushed back on former President Donald Trump's border policies, which included an unfulfilled vow to build a wall paid by Mexico.
While Biden’s overall approval rating is high largely due to COVID-19 vaccines being administered, and a good economy, lawmakers from both major parties have criticized the president for his handling of the border crisis.
"It's a very potent issue. It has been in the past and I think it will be," Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said Wednesday.
"If they want an open border policy, that's not something that’s going to have majority support in the country."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, predicted the border issue will "very much so" be a liability for Democrat congressional candidates next year.
"I'm sure it will be a big issue," Cruz said. "The chaos at the border is the direct result of political decisions made by Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris and it's producing a humanitarian crisis, a public health crisis and a national security crisis."
The longer the crisis lingers, the longer it likely will benefit Republicans.
"I think it’s going to be a big issue," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has been among the Republicans saying the White House is unwilling to work with the GOP on solutions.
"I'd like to work with the administration if they'd just work with us," Cornyn said. "You're going to have to change some of the policies. I don’t think they really understand the nature of the problem."
Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, plan to introduce bipartisan legislation to reform laws dealing with unaccompanied migrant children. The measure would reduce the number of children released into the U.S. while they wait for immigration courts to process their cases, according to Cornyn.
With a president's party traditionally losing seats in off-year elections, Republicans believe they can win back control of an evenly split Senate, and overcome a six-seat deficit in the House.
Although Biden’s high approval rating, possibly aided by people turned off by Trump’s combative personality, is a challenge to the GOP, the administration’s handling of the border seems to be a logical target.
In a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this month, Biden had a 59 percent approval rating. However, 48 percent said illegal immigration is a "very big problem” — an increase of 20 percentage points from June.
Immigration likely being a major issue for the midterms could mean the sides will not be able to agree on deals regarding border security, a pathway to citizenship for illegal residents, or a long-term solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., though, met with a small group of Republican senators Wednesday to discuss a proposal to address the explosion of asylum cases.
"Despite the national party rhetoric, individual senators are still very interested in talking about aspects of immigration. I haven’t given up," Durbin said.
Other Democrats are skeptical about reaching any deal with Republicans on immigration.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., wants Congress to use budget reconciliation — a simple majority vote, bypassing a Republican filibuster — to pass a robust immigration reform package through the Senate.
Menendez was among members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that met with Biden Tuesday and discussed using reconciliation to enact immigration reform.
"We pressed the question of that if we cannot get a bipartisan agreement, which we are working on … in the absence of getting 10 Republicans, we’d like to know that he’s open to the possibility of immigration or elements of immigration reform through reconciliation," Menendez said. "We want as broad as a reform as we can get."
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