“All of us who work in Democratic politics have been dreading this moment for two years,” said Lanae Erickson, who runs the public opinion and social policy division at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. “It is very evident that Republicans still have an upper hand on immigration and people don’t think that Democrats particularly care about securing the border.”
Progressives seem to agree. “They should have undone Title 42 on the first day in office. They didn’t,” said Chris Newman, the legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Los Angeles. “Now they have to do what they should have done in the first day of office, and they’re doing it poorly.”
Polls show broad dissatisfaction with the president’s handling of immigration. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll earlier this year, just 28 percent of Americans approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of the southern border.
In a Fox News poll in April of registered voters, 66 percent of white voters without a college degree said that the White House was not tough enough on unlawful immigration. A majority of Hispanic voters, 55 percent, also said the president was not tough enough.
“Biden won the 2020 election not just because he got big shifts among white college voters, but he stopped the bleeding among white working class voters,’’ said Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “What happens with those voters now that he’s going into 2024 with approval ratings in the low 40s, and then you add to that an emerging immigration problem — a problem these voters very much think matters?”
Other polling is more favorable to the administration. In Mr. Barreto’s recent surveys, conducted in seven battleground states for Immigration Hub, a pro-immigration group, there was broad support for Mr. Biden’s policies, including reversing Trump-era child separation and developing pathways to citizenship for Dreamers.
Democrats point to recent electoral history as a counter to predictions that new scenes of disruption on the border will exact a political price. Republicans and their allies in the media have turned the prospect of caravans of migrants approaching the nation’s southern border into biennial programming designed to motivate a conservative base. But Democrats won convincing victories in 2018, Mr. Biden won the presidency in 2020 and the party over-performed expectations in last year’s midterm elections.