Why Democrats should unite on battling the raging border crisis

Why Democrats should unite on battling the raging border crisis
© Getty Images

After contentious deliberations last week, Congress passed a $4.6 billion Senate aid package to fund relief for the crisis at the southern border. This was a blow to House Democrats who passed their own version of the bill, with much stronger conditions for how the money could be spent, in an effort to mitigate the latest immigration crackdown by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders MORE wrote in a letter to Democratic lawmakers, “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.” The passage of this bill came in the midst of the release of disturbing images of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, which showed children and families in overcrowded and filthy detention centers.

It is now undeniable that immigration has become the focal point of the national discourse, and this will be an issue at the forefront of the 2020 campaign, especially for the Democratic Party, which remains largely divided. The progressive wing quickly took aim at Pelosi for passing the Senate bill. Indeed, infighting within the party was rampant both during and following the passage of the bill, and the sharp contrast between the moderate and progressive factions is more apparent than ever before.

ADVERTISEMENT

The House Hispanic caucus issued a blistering statement following the passage of the bill, saying, “What happened today is unacceptable, and we will not forget this betrayal.” Notable progressive lawmakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also came forward to sharply criticize Pelosi for passing the bill after witnessing what she described as “vile” conditions in the detention centers along the southern border.

Following attacks from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who called out Ocasio-Cortez for decrying the crisis on the southern border and then not voting for the Senate aid package, the freshman Democrat responded on Twitter. “The $4.6 billion wasn’t humanitarian at all. It had no accountability measures for facilities that abuse children and families. It didn’t fix the problem, just funded abuse. I don’t believe in billion dollar blank checks for unethical, abusive administrations,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Beyond being a loss for Democrats, the passage of this bill was a victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment MORE. Pelosi has, for the most part, been able to adeptly navigate the increasing ideological divide within the Democratic Party, but she could not maintain consensus and ultimately lost unified control of her own caucus, while McConnell came out strong.

This substantive defeat for the Democrats comes off the heels of the first primary debate, where a number of the candidates shocked the nation by claiming that arriving into the country illegally should not be a federal crime. During the debate, when candidate Julian Castro called upon his contenders to say whether they would repeal Section 1325, which makes it a federal crime to cross the border illegally, several of the candidates agreed that crossing the border illegally should not be a criminal offense.

This was an alarming moment and is indicative of how far left the party has moved on immigration, not just from where it once was, but from the majority of the electorate. It is clear that Democrats are deeply divided on a consequential issue of critical importance to voters. Certainly, this will carry plenty of weight as the Democrats move forward on the campaign trail. According to a recent Gallup poll, 23 percent of Americans believe immigration is our most important problem, the highest percentage ever recorded since Gallup began tracking mentions of immigration in 1993.

The border crisis is saddening, and the photos are concerning. However, while the intentions of progressive Democrats come from humanitarian concerns, it is comments like those by Ocasio-Cortez, who claimed that detainees are “drinking out of toilets” but failed to prove this worrying claim and still restated her comparison of the facilities to “concentration camps,” that are going to be the downfall of Democrats in 2020. These baseless claims and obscene rhetoric are harmful to the party, harmful to the cause, and do nothing but sow divisions in the country even deeper.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”