Illegal immigration is now a central issue in the 2018 midterm elections. And the outcome of those elections will determine if there will be a showdown over the U.S.-Mexico border in Congress in December.
In December Congressional leaders won’t be able to avoid any longer a fight over spending for border security.
Money for the Department of Homeland Security will run out on December 7. But what happens on that date will be heavily influenced by what happens on November 6.
If Democrats win big in the midterms they won’t compromise on border security, and they certainly won’t give into Trump demands for funding a border wall.
They may, however, want to make a deal that provides a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” people who came to the United States illegally as children.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who would likely become the Speaker if Democrats retake the House, said last week that she will not negotiate with Trump on the wall, which she thinks is a stupid idea.
Some political observers think that Trump could have leverage if Democrats don’t do well in the midterms.
“There will be a lot of pressure on Democrats,” said Brian Darling, a former Republican Senate aide. He predicted that if Republicans do well “Democrats are going to be despondent, and I think you will see them give up and give President Trump his border wall.”
That may be wishful thinking for the GOP, and of course nobody knows what will happen.
It is very clear, however, that Trump is doing everything he can to make the midterms about immigration. He wants to motivate his political base of supporters which he thinks will protect GOP majorities in the House and Senate.
This is why Trump is increasingly focusing his attention (and his tweets) on the so-called caravan of thousands of migrants who have traveled from Guatemala and Honduras with plans to reach the U.S. border and seek asylum.
Trump has highlighted the migrants as a national security threat, which has no basis in reality. The truth about the caravan is this:
- It consists of poor refugees, including many women and children,
- It is over 1,000 miles from the U.S. border and
- It is traveling on foot.
Still, the president is fear-mongering, and saying untrue things, such as that the group includes Middle Eastern terrorists.
“In that caravan, you have some very bad people,” Trump said at a Monday rally in Houston while his crowd chanted “build that wall.”
He called the caravan an “assault on our country” and said that “Democrats had something to do with it.” He added: “We need a wall built fast.”
Vice President Pence has also said the caravan is a threat. On Tuesday he said that it was “inconceivable” that the group did not include people from the Middle East even though he had no proof of this.
The focus on immigration seems to be strengthening Republican chances of holding onto control of the Senate. Of course, very few people have thought that Democrats had a chance to win back Senate control this year anyway.
Democrats, however, are still favored to win control of the U.S. House, where they need to pick up 23 seats to become the majority party.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report on Tuesday announced it was moving eight more House races toward Democrats, while it moved two toward the GOP.
This means that Democrats have a better chance of taking House control than Republicans have of keeping Senate control, which may surprise a lot of people.
It’s not clear that focusing on immigration is going to help Republicans. Many Democrats think that they will end up losing ground with their rhetoric on immigration.
“As the country becomes browner when you look at 51 percent of all immigrants come from Mexico or Latin America, I really think at some point it’s going to become a huge Achilles’ heel for the Republicans,” said Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist.