Chris Chmielenski's picture


  by  Chris Chmielenski

When Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, a number of 'Blue Dog' Democrats who had earned B-grades or better through our immigration-reduction grade cards lost their seats. Since then, the Party has moved more and more towards supporting an expansion of legal immigration and less enforcement. Many of the newly elected Democrats will fill seats previously held by those 'Blue Dogs', but the lion's share of the incoming freshmen appear to be more in line with the national Party.

Democratic consultants had advised most candidates who challenged incumbent Republicans in the former 'Blue Dog' swing districts to avoid immigration. A few took their advice; in fact, nearly a third of the more than 30 Democratic candidates who won Republican-held seats in races that have thus far been called didn't include any mention of the immigration issue on their campaign websites. But many of the rest renewed calls for comprehensive immigration reform legislation with several making specific references to the failed Gang of Eight amnesty effort in 2013-14.

By the Numbers:

  • 27 Democrats called for a DACA/Dream Act amnesty
  • 19 called for a mass amnesty
  • 10 publicly distanced themselves from the Abolish ICE movement, but 2-3 embraced it
  • 17 called for an expansion of legal immigration
  • 17 called for stronger border security
  • 5 called for mandatory workplace verification

While the numbers don't look great, there are a few bright spots.

For starters, most Democratic candidates tried to avoid the issue at all cost. This couldn't have been more evident than in New Jersey's 11th Congressional District where Democrat Mikie Sherrill will replace the retiring House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen. The district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Rep. Frelinghuysen has been a vocal supporter of a DACA amnesty. Still, Sherrill heeded the advice of the consultants and stayed away from the immigration issue. New York City public radio station WNYC even wrote about Sherrill's distancing from the immigration issue on the campaign trail.

Another example is in Virginia's 7th Congressional District where Abigail Spanberger upset Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.). Even though Spanberger expressed support for a DACA amnesty on her campaign website, she avoided the issue in public. When the issue was raised during an October debate between the two candidates, Spanberger, a former CIA agent, relied heavily on her experience in federal law enforcement to express support for interior immigration enforcement.

A second bright spot is in the number of candidates who distanced themselves from the Abolish ICE movement after it became a national issue over the summer. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Democratic leader Joe Crowley in the primary and became the new star of the Party, called for abolishing ICE, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus followed suit. But at least a third of the newly elected Democrats publicly distanced themselves from the Abolish ICE movement and expressed support for the enforcement agency.

Nearly all Dems call for Amnesty

Still, nearly every Democrat who took over a Republican held seat in the House called for at least a DACA amnesty, and nearly three-quarters called for an amnesty for most illegal aliens. This is quite a break from the former 'Blue Dogs.' During the 2010 lame duck session of Congress, 38 Democrats voted against the Dream Act on the House floor. Five Democrats in the Senate voted against the Dream Act, keeping the amnesty bill from becoming law.

In addition to the new DEM's support for amnesty, more than half called for increases in legal immigration. This is a far cry from former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's call for mass reductions in immigration in the 1990s.

Mandatory E-Verify

A handful of newly elected Democrats called for mandatory workplace verification; two specifically identified E-Verify on their campaign websites.

  • Abby Finkenauer (IA-01)
  • Cindy Axne (IA-03)
  • Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02)
  • Tom Malinowski (NJ-07)
  • Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (TX-07)

Based on the advice of the Democratic consultants, there is some recognition within the Party that its national immigration platform creates issues with voters. However, the majority of the Party, including its rumored 2020 Presidential Hopefuls and Congressional Leaders embrace amnesty and an immigration expansion without considering the impact of those policies on workers and future sustainability.

While the new class of Democrats has created some distance between themselves and the Party's overall position on immigration, it's still far short of the distance created by the former 'Blue Dogs.' We'll be watching to see if these new Democrats fall in behind their Party leaders and risk re-election in 2020, or if they move more towards the former 'Blue Dogs.'

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Deputy Director for NumbersUSA

2018 elections

Updated: Mon, Nov 26th 2018 @ 4:25pm EST

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