Washington — President Biden's 2024 campaign is staging a public messaging offensive on immigration policy to condemn proposals by former President Donald Trump that it says will trample on the U.S. Constitution, American values and the rights of immigrants, campaign officials told CBS News.
Mr. Biden's campaign aides are aiming to bring attention to what they see as the most draconian immigration policies Trump has promised to implement if elected again, hoping thatmass deportations and end birthright citizenship will turn off Latinos and other key voters in 2024. It's a notable increased focus on a deeply divisive issue that polls indicate could be a political vulnerability for Mr. Biden given the of illegal crossings at the southern border over the past years.
"Donald Trump is offering us a vision of what America would be under his second term in the White House in 2025," María Carolina Casado, the Biden campaign's Hispanic media director, told CBS News in an interview. "This is not about restoring our immigration system — that he basically destroyed — or border security. This is about hurting our Latino community, hurting our families and family separation."
The radical shift in U.S. immigration policy proposed by Trump, Casado added, is "scary."
Earlier this week, the Biden campaign called Trump's promise to deny birthright citizenship to the children of unauthorized immigrants an attempt to use "children as political pawns" and "an affront" to the U.S. Constitution, which most legal scholars believe guarantees citizenship to those born on U.S. soil. Biden's camp has also branded Trump's immigration plans as "racist" and "cruel."
On Wednesday, the president's campaign plans to highlight Trump's praise for hisof separating migrant children from their parents, and his refusal so far to rule out reinstating it. The campaign also plans to condemn Trump's vow to launch the "largest deportation operation" in U.S. history, and his invocation of "Operation Wetback," a notorious government initiative in the 1950s that led to arrest and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants and U.S. citizens.
"The reality is that Donald Trump has no plan to build a humane and secure immigration system," Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a statement to CBS News. "He only cares about himself and will prey on our country's most vulnerable if he thinks it will help him regain power."
In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said Mr. Biden and Democrats were "directly responsible for the completely lawless and open border, allowing deadly drugs to flow into communities, giving safe passage to human traffickers, and empowering cartels to spread their violence."
He cited the millions of migrant crossings recorded along the U.S.-Mexico border since Mr. Biden took office.
"That's why President Trump is gaining record support from Hispanics and other minority groups because they know he is the only one who can secure the border," Cheung added. "President Trump even went on Univision to take his message directly to the people, something Joe Biden is deathly afraid to do."
Senior Trump campaign advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita sought to downplay this week some of the proposed policies and personnel plans outlined by external allies in recent days, calling them "merely suggestions."
It's unclear what specific policies they were referring to, but Trump himself has touted his immigration plans on the campaign trail, galvanizing his supporters with vows to deport historic numbers of undocumented immigrants, terminate birthright citizenship, bar the entry of legal immigrants with political beliefs he dislikes andhe instituted for African and predominantly Muslim countries. He has also escalated his harsh rhetoric on the issue, recently saying some migrants were "poisoning the blood" of the country.
Whether the Biden campaign's efforts to raise alarms about Trump's immigration plans will benefit the president politically, especially among Latinos, remains to be seen.
After all, the Latino vote is very much up for grabs in 2024, according to polls this year. A Univision poll from September found that 58% of registered Latinos would vote for Mr. Biden, while 31% would support Trump, a larger share than what Republican candidates have garnered historically. A recent New York Times / Siena College survey last week showed Biden trailing Trump in most battleground states, including those with large Latino communities like Arizona and Nevada.
Immigration is also one of Mr. Biden's worst-polling issues. A CBS News poll in September found that 66% of surveyed voters — including 71% of Latinos — had unfavorable views of his handling of immigration, his second most unpopular issue. Moreover, Latinos, like the rest of the electorate, prioritize the economy and other issues, like health care, over immigration.
But Matt Barreto, a pollster commissioned by groups allied to Democrats, said it is "smart" for the Biden campaign to draw contrasts between the president's immigration agenda and what he called Trump's "extreme" and "draconian" proposals. He said Americans are generally accepting of immigrants, citingthat shows broad support for legal immigration, and granting legal status to some undocumented immigrants.
"I think that it's certainly an issue that Latino voters care about, even when they tell us that the economy and costs are their number one issue," Barreto said. "Latino voters are very responsive and compassionate about immigration issues, and they will absolutely be upset about the Trump agenda."
Fin Gomez contributed reporting.
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