The Corner


Immigration Enforcement Is More Popular Than President Trump

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a agricultural facility in Miss., U.S. August 7, 2019 (Enforcement/Reuters)

An election result from yesterday that I forgot to include in today’s Morning Jolt: Voters in Tucson, Arizona overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to become a “sanctuary city.” I did mention that in Sussex County, N.J. — a fairly Republican-leaning corner of a deep blue state — voters approved a referendum calling on local officials to cooperate with ICE by a 2-to-1 margin.

Something odd happens when voters are asked to vote on immigration enforcement when the issue is separated from major party candidates.

Last year, Don Barnes won the race for sheriff in Orange County, Calif., in a contest that was largely seen as a referendum on sanctuary cities and local law enforcement cooperation with ICE; Barnes opposes sanctuary city laws.

Harford County sheriff Jeff Gahler won reelection with 68 percent of the vote, in another local election that was seen as a referendum on local police’s cooperation with ICE. Elsewhere in Maryland, Montgomery County executive Marc Elrich is partially reversing an order he enacted in July barring Montgomery County police from cooperating with ICE. (Also in 2018 in Maryland, Frederick County sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who is sometimes touted as “the next Joe Arpaio,” won reelection with 53 percent of the vote, but that’s somewhat less surprising, as Trump won this county by 2.4 percent in 2016.)

The 2018 elections did see victories for some sheriffs who pledged less cooperation with ICE in Mecklenburg County and Wake County, N.C., Anne Arundel County in Maryland, and Ulster County in New York.

And for what it’s worth, one study of voter attitudes in the the 2018 midterms concluded, “Democrats made their biggest gains with economically liberal immigration skeptics.”

A lot of Americans in quite a few not-so-red jurisdictions are wary at best of sanctuary city policies and want to see immigration laws enforced. And yet, President Trump’s approval rating on how he’s handling immigration never budges out of the high 30s, low 40s range.

Trump fans won’t like hearing this, but how likely is it that this is a country that wants its immigration laws enforced but doesn’t like how Trump talks about it — “an invasion of our country,” “predators,” “animals” — and so on?

Alternately, how many voters want to see immigration laws enforced but can’t approve of an administration that seems so chaotic in attempting to enforce the policies it wants? In less than three years since taking office, Trump has had four secretaries and acting secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, three acting directors of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and three acting directors of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This is an administration that has had so much turnover in positions dealing with immigration enforcement that Trump’s choice to be the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security can’t take the job because he’s only acting in his current job of undersecretary for strategy, policy, and plans, and he needs to get confirmed in that job in order to be appointed acting secretary.

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