Border
Ahead of Vice President's Latin America trip, immigration takes center stage as domestic issue
In her first foreign trip as Vice President, Harris will head to both countries as part of her role leading diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants headed to the US border.

Immigration and border security has become a prime political issue domestically in states across the country, particularly ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris' trip to Mexico and Guatemala next week, according to experts.

In her first foreign trip as Vice President, Harris will head to both countries as part of her role leading diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants headed to the US border, partially by focusing on the root causes of migration in the ‘Northern Triangle' countries of Central America.

The trip, however, also comes amidst a backdrop of growing attacks on the administration by Republican politicians - including many representing constituents far from the border.

Florida Senator Rick Scott slams Biden and Harris for 'avoiding' Mexican border

For example, North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn - a staunch Trump ally - recently said that data from his district, a predominantly rural area in the Western part of the state, recently claimed that data shows that it is a primary issue for his constituents.

"The number one concern of my constituents in North Carolina is the crisis at our southern border, over 1,600 miles away," he said on the House floor.

In a previous Tweet, Cawthorn said that "we must secure our border, protect our citizens and preserve the America we all know and love."

Cawthorn's statement has been echoed by Republicans across the country, some of whom have explicitly said they view it as a vital political issue to ensure the party is successful in future electoral races.

The number one concern of my constituents in North Carolina is the crisis at our southern border, over 1,600 miles away

In April, South Dakota Republican John Thune - the Senate Minority Whip - said that immigration is a "potent weapon" that leaves the Democrats vulnerable.

"It's a very potent issue. It has been in the past and I think it will be," he said. "If they want an open border policy, that's not something that's going to have majority support in the country."

North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn.

In an interview with LPO, Tony Payan, the director for the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that he believes the border and immigration have become part of ‘political theater' domestically.

"What we are experiencing in the United States is a political environment of polarization, in which people are looking for ‘wedge' issues that appeal to voters and individuals," said Payan, who is also a member of the Greater Houston Partnership's Immigration Task Force. "The Republican Party has been most adept and finding those wedge issues, or building them."

The border and the surge of migrants, Payan added, is an "ideal" wedge issue, as it appeals to people's fears of insecurity as well as other concerns.

The border and immigration have become part of ‘political theater' domestically.

"It cuts across so many issues, like immigration, terrorism, national integrity, security and so on," he said. "Unfortunately for the border areas, it doesn't matter that people in Kansas have very little understanding of what the border is about. It becomes a focal point for political theater and individual fears."

Juan Fernando Ibarra Del Cueto, a political research and assistant professor of political science at Colgate University, said that Republican-leaning media has taken advantage of the situation to "taunt" the Biden administration in an area in which many see the as weak, when compared to the Trump administration.

"They portray them [migrants] as people who want to take advantage of the American system," he said. "That narrative is powerful, and you can also point to an objective rise in the number of people who are headed to the border."

"The combination of a new administration that committed to change the policies of Trump, together with a rise in those numbers, is the perfect combination for the media ecosystem to pick up on this," Del Cueto added.

They portray them [migrants] as people who want to take advantage of the American system

Much of the administration's urgency to address these issues at their root, Del Cueto added, stems from its concerns over being seen as weak as immigration by voters in the United States.

"I absolutely think that the Biden administration is conscious that this is going to be an issue that is going to haunt them," he said. "It's been haunting the already from day one.....I have no doubt that the Biden administration is trying to play a complicated game of appeasing the media who is picking up on this."

"His whole administration is trying to portray an image of a combination of being more humane when compared with Trump, but also caring about the law and not creating poor conditions," Del Cueto added.

Going forward, Republicans are likely to continue to use this issue to attack the administration, particularly as many analysts believe that the Vice President's trip will have little short-term impact on the issue.

Xiao Wang, the CEO of Boundless Immigration - one of the most prominent immigration law companies in the US - said that the resistance to immigration is likely to continue, as many politicians use immigrants as scapegoats for other domestic issues, even in areas that aren't particularly impacted by immigration.

"I think it's turned into something far more about what you believe on the political spectrum, as opposed to how much it directly impacts you or your daily life," he said. "Immigration is often used as a proxy for the stagnation of wages, or rising income inequality, or the high-level decline of the middle class."

"Being anti-immigration is an easy way of putting that blame of why the system is failing a lot of families on a certain group of people that have been historically considered the ‘other'.

A recent May poll from the Pew Research Center found that 68% of US adults believing the government is doing a ‘very' or ‘somewhat' bad job of dealing with the flow of migrants at the border.

Only 29% said the government was doing a good job at securing the border and managing the influx of asylum seekers.


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