Border Children: A PR Disaster?

In a remarkable display of unity, the nation’s news media have suspended coverage of the FBI scandal, our booming economy, progress on North Korea, etc., to focus single-mindedly on the plight of children who are temporarily separated from their parents as a consequence of their illegal entry into the U.S. I personally have no problem with enforcing the immigration laws, as the President is sworn to do. But the Democrats evidently believe they have struck the mother lode in their ceaseless quest for political advantage.

Politico sends out a daily email called the Morning Score. This morning’s Score is triumphant:

NATIONAL OUTRAGE OVER THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S POLICY on separating children from parents at the border has reached a boiling point, drawing rebukes from across the political spectrum — including from the Republicans charged with keeping the House, both at the NRCC and in numerous battleground districts.

Heartbreaking images of children held in what are functionally cages have been released by the government, and ProPublica published gut-wrenching audio of a young girl pleading to be reunited with her family while other children cry in the background.

The pushback from Democrats came swiftly. Every single Democrat in the Senate — including red-state incumbents in reelection battles like Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) — signed onto a bill that would prevent minors from being taken away from their parents. House Democrats also roundly criticized the move.

But resistance also came from the Republican Party. NRCC chair Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) placed the blame squarely on the Trump administration. In a statement, Stivers said he will “ask the Administration to stop needlessly separating children from their parents” and that if “the policy is not changed, I will support other means to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents.” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) called the policy “heartless and inhumane” and said “this extreme measure must end,” while border-district Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) told CNN that it is “something that as Americans we shouldn’t be doing” and said that “this is clearly something that the administration can change.” Rep. Kevin Yoder ‘s (KS-03) statement to the Kansas City Star spoke to the “lasting, and sometimes even irreversible toll on the child’s well being” from separation from their parents, and he urged the administration to change its policy.

The White House’s policy is also widely unpopular among Americans. A poll of adults from CNN/SSRS found that just 28 percent of Americans approve of the Trump administration’s decision (58 percent of Republicans support it, while just 27 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats do). The Daily Beast/Ipsos poll of adults found similar numbers — 27 percent said they agree with the statement that “it is appropriate to separate undocumented immigrant parents from their children when they cross the border in order to discourage others from crossing the border illegally,” with a plurality of Republicans agreeing at 46 percent but just 29 percent of Independents and 14 percent of Democrats saying the same.

But the White House is seemingly standing behind the policy, which could further open a rift between the president and those Republicans who have criticized family separation. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen repeatedly lied from the podium at Monday’s White House press briefing, incorrectly blaming the separation on a loophole within the country’s immigration system and not instead on a deliberate policy choice from the Trump administration. The president has taken to Twitter to try to blame Democrats — and not his own administration’s policies — for the move.

For what it’s worth, I doubt that a lot of votes will turn on this issue. The ones doing the howling are the same ones who have tried to frustrate the president every step of the way, and I don’t for a moment think their crocodile tears are sincere. When have the Democrats lost any sleep over the fact that a far greater number of American children are separated from their parents for a far longer time, because those parents committed crimes and were sentenced to prison? The Democrats don’t care about children, they care about political opportunity. The reality, which most voters understand, is that Republicans are opposed to illegal immigration, while Democrats are in favor of it. It really is that simple, and nothing has happened to change the fact that the Republican position is more popular.

Now someone just needs to tell our more timid Republicans that the sky isn’t falling.


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