Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday)

Dems trying to outflank GOP on border security

Strategy shift comes after Trump helped sink bipartisan proposal


WASHINGTON — With immigratio­n shaping the elections that will decide control of Congress, Democrats are trying to outflank Republican­s and convince voters they can address problems at the U.S. border with Mexico, embracing an issue that has traditiona­lly been used against them.

The shift in strategy, especially from Democrats running in battlegrou­nd states, comes as the Biden administra­tion has struggled to manage an unpreceden­ted influx of migrants at the Southwest border. Donald Trump, the presumptiv­e Republican presidenti­al nominee, has led his party in vilifying immigrants as “poisoning the blood ” of the country and called for mass deportatio­ns of migrants. And as the GOP looks to flip control of the Senate, they are tying Democrats to President Joe Biden’s handling of immigratio­n.

The tactic has already figured large in elections like Arizona’s Senate race, a seat Democrats almost certainly need to win to save their majority. Republican Kari Lake has repeatedly linked Rep. Ruben Gallego, the likely Democratic nominee, to Biden, telling the crowd at a March event that “there’s really not a difference between the two.”

Democrats are no longer shrugging off such attacks: They believe they can tout their own proposals for fixing the border, especially after Trump and Republican lawmakers rejected a bipartisan proposal on border security earlier this year.

“It gives some Democrats an opportunit­y to say, ‘Look, I’m here for solutions,’” Gallego said. “Clearly, the Republican­s are here to play games. And so whether it’s Kari Lake or Donald Trump, they’re not interested in border security. They’re interested in the politics of border security. And, we’re here to actually do something about it.”

Standing in front of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona last month, Gallego slammed the GOP for blocking the bipartisan border bill.

“Every minute we wait means more fentanyl deaths, more strain on our first responders, and the looming possibilit­y of street releases — something that no small community wants,” he said.

Just two states over, Democrats are hoping to bolster their chances of holding the Senate by pulling off a difficult feat — turning Texas blue, at least in one race. Some see a chance to flip a long-held GOP seat by fielding Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, against Sen. Ted Cruz.

Allred has emphasized his connection to border communitie­s on the campaign trail and recounted how he had made childhood visits to Brownsvill­e, Texas, where his grandfathe­r worked as a customs officer.

“Our border communitie­s are not just political backdrops, not just places you go to point out problems,” he said at a news conference last month. “They’re places where real people live, where they’re trying to raise their families.”

Both Allred and Gallego have joined a House task force focused on border security. Some Senate Democrats have also recently leaned into legislatio­n focused on immigratio­n enforcemen­t. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched ads criticizin­g GOP senators for opposing the bipartisan Senate deal.

It is all a part of a strategy to neutralize the GOP’s advantage on the issue by convincing swing voters that Democrats are serious about border policy.

“Democrats aren’t going to win on immigratio­n this year, but they have to get closer to a draw on the issue to get to a place where people take them seriously,” said Lanae Erickson, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist Democrat think tank. “Be palatable enough on that issue that people are then willing to consider other priorities.”

 ?? EVAN VUCCI/AP ?? President Joe Biden talks with the U.S. Border Patrol and local officials in February as he looks over the southern border in Brownsvill­e, Texas.
EVAN VUCCI/AP President Joe Biden talks with the U.S. Border Patrol and local officials in February as he looks over the southern border in Brownsvill­e, Texas.

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