Politics

Voters Who Supported Democratic Senators in the Past Want Immigration Cuts

Advocacy group plans campaign to pressure vulnerable Brown in Ohio, Stabenow in Michigan

If Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) vote against a bill to reduce immigration, they will be going against the the desires of their own voters.

And this is not simply a description of their constituents as a whole but, specifically, voters who have cast ballots for them in the past.

That conclusion comes courtesy of polling in Michigan and Ohio, conducted earlier this year by NumbersUSA, an organization that favors lower levels of immigration. The group this week will launch a long-term campaign to pressure Stabenow and Brown, along with other Democratic senators up for re-election next year, in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

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“We’re mobilizing our members to really bring these polls to these Democratic senators there,” said Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA.

The surveys, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, found broad support for reduced immigration in 10 states. Among voters who have cast ballots for the incumbents in Michigan and Ohio, the polls found:

  • By a margin of 53 percent to 31 percent, Michiganders who have voted for Stabenow favored cutting the number of legal immigrants by half or more. Among all likely midterm election voters, that margin is 64 percent to 22 percent.
  • By a margin of 50 percent to 35 percent, Ohio residents who have voted for Brown in the past favored a legal immigration reduction of half or more. Among all likely midterm election voters, 64 percent favor a reduction by at least half, while 20 percent want to maintain or increase the current number.

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Representatives for the two senators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Beck said NumbersUSA plans to launch a Facebook ad campaign that will last months and likely will eventually spend money on television ads as well. He said polling in the other eight states is similar, but he added that the group is focusing on Ohio and Michigan first because they are large, electorally important states that were crucial to Trump’s victory.

Reducing legal immigration is at the heart of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, proposed by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) and endorsed last month by Trump. It would severely curtail family-sponsored immigration, prohibiting people from sponsoring extended family members for permanent residency. The bill also would prioritize immigrants with skills and advanced education.

Experts estimate it would cut immigration by at least 40 percent.

The RAISE Act, in particular, draws a closer split among supporters of Brown and Stabenow. Brown voters favor the reductions — or even deeper cuts — by a margin of 44 percent to 39 percent. Stabenow voters favor it by a margin of 41 percent to 39 percent.

“If they refuse to break with this outlandish immigration policy, the voters in their states are going to continue to suffer.”

Among all likely voters, only a quarter in Ohio and 26 percent in Michigan believe the RAISE Act reductions are too large.

Beck said the results indicate how far Democratic politicians have strayed from their constituents, even Democratic voters. He noted that Democratic politicians in the 1990s were much more likely to favor tighter immigration controls.

“They are so much in lockstep with this immigration policy, which is new,” he said.

The extremist view embraced by many in the party, Beck said, is that “If you can get into the country and overstay your visa or sneak in, it’s a human-rights violation to expect you to leave.”

Large majorities of voters in both Michigan and Ohio who have supported their Democratic incumbents favor requiring businesses to use the now-voluntary E-Verify system to determine whether job applicants are authorized to work in America. They also favor giving Americans preference for jobs before allowing further immigration.

Beck said it spells danger for Democrats.

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“If they refuse to break with this outlandish immigration policy,” he said, “the voters in their states are going to continue to suffer.”

Few political handicappers view Brown or Stabenow as vulnerable in next year’s elections. Beck said it depends greatly on whether Republicans nominate candidates are willing and able to make immigration a top issue, as Trump successfully did in the presidential election.

His first hope, he said, is that Democratic politicians will heed the warning signs and reorient their positions on the issue.

“We want policy results, not electoral results,” said Beck.

(photo credit, homepage image: AFL-CIO/usdagov, Flickr; photo credit, article image: ITIF, Flickr)

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