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2022 Midterm Elections: Immigration is a key issue for border states, businesses and farmers

The Republicans went with immigration as a part of their closing message; how does the issue rank with most voters vs. farmers and those near the border?

Update:
Venezuelan migrants stand in front of the US Border Patrol operations post across the Rio Bravo river, (or Rio Grande river, as it is called in the US), in Ciudad Juarez, state of Chihuahua, Mexico, on October 25, 2022. - Thousands of Venezuelans are trying to reach the United States in hope for a new life but earlier this month the US announced a new program granting legal entry to 24,000 people from the crisis-wracked country while deporting all those who cross through the border with Mexico illegally. The agreement between the US and Mexico would allow 24,000 Venezuelans to enter the United States if they can prove they have sponsorship, and only if they fly into the country. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ / AFP) (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
HERIKA MARTINEZGetty

A recent study from Pew Research found that immigration has grown more divisive issue with the divide between voters who see the issue as important widening. The poll found that while seventy-six percent of Republicans base their vote on immigration policy, the rate for Democrats is only thirty-six percent --fifty points lower.

US midterm elections live online: Election Day | Latest news

Right-wing news outlets tend to focus on the issue more than liberal outlets, which in part, contributes to a disproportionate of GOP voters perceiving the issues as more important than those who are hearing less about it.

Are border crossings increasing?

Its a bit more complicated than yes or no.

The nature of undocumented immigration is by definition, difficult to track.

Apprehensions by Custom and Border Patrol are up to historic levels, but that is a reflection of increased funding to enhance the technological capacity of the agencies. This funding has increased steadily since 2000 when it is estimated that four million people entered the Southern border without documentation, but official reports only cite 1.6 million apprehensions.

Two million people have been caught by Customs and Border Patrol this year, with migration patterns shifting as the impacts of the covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis take hold; not to mention US sanctions and trade embargos in place in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Farmers and business owners make calls to increase immigration to fill jobs

Republicans tend to be a bit disingenuous in their rhetoric on immigration. Often they tell voters that migrants want to take their jobs and will increase crime, and in reality, neither are true.

In the agricultural sector, more than three fourths of workers are immigrants, and fifty percent of that group are undocumented, a trend that has persisted for decades as native-born workers existed the industry.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, whose members have donated to Republicans at much higher rates than Democrats, believe that the government should avoid taking an “enforcement only approach to immigration” because cracking down on illegal entry, risks the availability of “undocumented workers,” and if all were to be lost, “agricultural output would fall by $30 to $60 billion.” While, farmers support guest worker programs, it is often from reducing the risk to the farmer, and not the vulnerability that creates for the migrant working without legal status.

There is an active effort to deny that such a change to the law would have any difference on food prices. The United States is one of the most subsidized food systems in the world. Perhaps it is time for leaders to think about helping farmers to increase wages, instead of constant focus on protectionist commodity price manipulations, that punish countries without the power to impose the same polices.

What is driving border crossings?

Worsening economic and political climates are driving immigration from Mexico and Central America. However, while the levels of migrants attempting to leave Mexico are increasing, the number of people seeking refuge from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) has fallen to 541,000, from more than 700,000 last year and 600,000 in 2019.

YearMexicoNorthern TriangleTotal Apprehensions
2019237,078623,671977,500
2020297,711106,762458,088
2021655,594701,0491,734,686
2022 (Jan - Oct)808,339541,6182,378,944

The the Biden has touted that these figures reflect their focus on targeting the “root causes” of economic migration in the three countries. Seeing such changes so quickly would be quite impressive, but it could also be that Mexico’s attempts to stop migrants for entering their southern border explain the decrease.

One million migrants, a number almost ten times as large as was recorded in 2019, have been apprehended at the southern border seeking work, safety, healthcare, and much more in the United States, who are not from Mexico or Northern Triangle countries.

The numbers of migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela has increased significantly this year. Many of the migrants will be able to seek asylum or at least try in order to obtain legal residency in the US. The economic crisis in these countries, in addition to US sanctions, have left the economies in a state of distress, leading many to flee.

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