Rising Discontent Over Immigration Puts Biden’s Latino Support at Risk

By LG Staff

By LG Staff

June 6, 2024

Arturo Garino, the former mayor of Nogales, once actively campaigned for national Democratic candidates, including former President Barack Obama.

Now, with Arizona emerging as a focal point for immigration issues, Garino told NBC News he won’t be supporting President Joe Biden in the upcoming election. Despite voting for Biden in 2020, Garino expressed uncertainty about his vote this November during an interview last month.

“I don’t think that this administration is handling it correctly — allowing all these people to just come across,” Garino told NBC News. “I’m a Democrat, and I’m pretty upset.”

President Biden’s recent executive order, which significantly limits asylum access for migrants at the border, underscores the complex challenges immigration poses for his campaign, even among Latino voters who traditionally align with his party on this issue.

Voters like Garino, who previously criticized the administration for maintaining a pandemic-era ban on border crossings, are frustrated by the high number of migrant arrivals in recent years. Many also hold Biden accountable for not fulfilling promises on immigration reform for long-term undocumented immigrants, despite persistent Republican opposition in Congress.

In a tightly contested presidential race, any decrease in Latino support in crucial battleground states could prove pivotal.

A Diminishing Lead?

Historically, immigration has not been the primary voting issue for Latinos. However, many Latino voters use immigration as a barometer, often equating anti-immigrant stances with being anti-Latino, explained Carlos Odio, co-founder of Equis Research, a Democrat-leaning Latino polling firm.

“That perception has shifted somewhat in recent years. Democrats no longer hold the same advantage they once did,” Odio noted. He added that there is a belief among some Latinos that Democrats have failed to deliver on promises for legal status pathways for immigrants, while Republicans might not implement their harsh immigration policies as extensively as they claim.

Recent polls have indicated a growing number of Latinos agreeing with Republican calls for increased border control, and an increase in the percentage who believe Republicans and Donald Trump could better manage border security.

According to a recent NBC News survey, U.S. voters ranked immigration and the border as the second most critical issue facing the country, just behind inflation and cost of living. Less than 30% approved of Biden’s handling of immigration and the border. Republicans were significantly more likely (42%) than Democrats (4%) and independents (15%) to consider immigration and the border a top issue.

An April poll by Axios-Ipsos and Noticias Telemundo found that hardline immigration positions have gained popularity among Latinos. Support for building a border wall or fence rose from 30% to 42% among Latinos between December 2021 and March 2024. However, Latinos are still less likely than white Americans to back wall construction or mass deportations, according to Pew Research Center.

The same Axios-Ipsos and Noticias Telemundo poll revealed that 64% of adult Latinos supported granting the president the authority to close U.S. borders if too many immigrants are attempting to enter. Conversely, 59% supported allowing refugees fleeing crime and violence in Latin America to seek asylum in the U.S.

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at UnidosUS, the largest Latino advocacy organization in the U.S., stated in a recent interview that the Biden administration and campaign have failed to provide Latino swing voters with a compelling counter-narrative to Republican rhetoric on immigration.

“It’s political malpractice. They’re conceding the space and letting others define them,” said Martinez de Castro, whose group recently endorsed Biden in Arizona.

Biden’s executive order is the latest move in his administration’s aggressive stance on immigration. Biden has criticized Trump for derailing a bipartisan bill that included funds for border enforcement, additional visas and green cards, and tighter asylum regulations. After Republicans blocked the bill twice, Biden used his executive power to implement asylum restrictions.

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