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Column: Biden bucks his party for an immigration win

A man in dark suit and sunglasses is flanked by two people in green uniform, with a towering border wall behind them
President Biden walks with U.S. Border Patrol agents along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso in January 2023.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
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Hello and happy Tuesday. There are 146 days until the election and today we’re talking neighbors — good, bad and weirdly obsessed with flags.

Yeah, you know who I mean: Martha-Ann Alito.

First there was the upside-down United States flag, allegedly a symbol of distress aimed at a Biden-backing neighbor. Then the “Appeal to Heaven,” an obscure ode to godly interventions.

Now she’s apparently contemplating her own line of hate-based banners. Maybe she’ll sell them alongside the Trump Bible.

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On secretly recorded audio captured by documentarian Lauren Windsor and published in Rolling Stone, Martha-Ann talks about how galling it is to have to stare at a Pride flag “across the lagoon” all month, and how in her head she’s come up with a design she’d like to wave from her pole in response.

“It’s white and has yellow and orange flames around it. And in the middle is the word ‘vergogna.’ ‘Vergogna’ in Italian means shame — vergogna. V-E-R-G-O-G-N-A. Vergogna,” she told Windsor, really laying into that contempt.

Then she vowed revenge on people who cross her.

“There will be a way, it doesn’t have to be now, but there will be a way they know,” she said. “Don’t worry about it.”

OK, not scary at all, and definitely not disturbingly filled with free-floating hostility and loathing.

Maybe we could forgive Martha-Ann and her far-right tendencies if the whole Supreme-Court-is-supremely-not-impartial mess didn’t keep getting worse. But also Tuesday, Rolling Stone published Martha-Ann’s hubby saying this about the country’s current politicization:

“One side or the other is going to win. I mean, there can be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully. But it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you’re going to split the difference.”

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Or, you know, you could do democracy.

Excuse me while I go flip my flag.

The one-two immigration punch

President Biden talks with U.S. Border Patrol agents in January.
President Biden talks with U.S. Border Patrol agents along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Biden came out with a one-two punch in recent days on immigration, going it largely alone on an issue that has had him on the ropes for years.

While the moves made progressives angry and drew condemnation from within his own party (and rightfully raised concerns for migrants fleeing violence and danger), it was a statement that Biden is going on the offensive on an issue that has been one of former President Trump’s strongest pummeling points.

First, Biden curtailed asylum claims at the border.

Now, he’s is rumored to be considering another executive action that would give temporary legal status and work permits to undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, of whom there are about 1.1 million.

Those million-plus people, many moms and dads, are largely in western states including California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona, where blended families are as common as they are fragile — neighbors who are forced to live with constant anxiety despite being integral parts of communities and economies.

Take these two actions together (if the second one happens), and Biden’s plan for winning the Latino vote — critical in western swing states — comes into focus.

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But in a way that is surprising.

Because as counterintuitive as it sounds to liberal, non-Latino voters, many of these Hispanic voters are conservative on issues such as immigration.

Here’s what many didn’t see coming with Biden’s asylum action, and maybe his political savvy at being willing to buck even his own party to do it: 69% of Hispanic voters and 75% of Black voters approved of it, according to a CBS/YouGov poll.

“Latino voters are with him,” Mike Madrid told me. Madrid is a founder of the Lincoln Project and author of the upcoming book “The Latino Century.”

With 1 in 5 voters being Latino in Nevada and 1 in 4 in Arizona, that support is crucial, the “whole ballgame” as Madrid put it.

Trump’s immigration freight train

Trump, of course, has basically owned the immigration issue politically since 2016. His narrative that “hordes” of Black and brown people are “poisoning the blood” of our country has only intensified.

At his Nevada rally, the first since becoming a convicted felon, Trump let loose with this gem:

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Immigrants “are changing the fabric of our country. They are destroying our country. They are doing things that are unthinkable.”

And of course, he constantly re-ups his promise to deport nearly 11 million undocumented people by force if elected, including almost 2 million Californians.

With all that, it’s hard to understand how an immigrant voter could back him. But it may be as simple as pocketbook politics, and, as Madrid said, the fact that Latinos are simply too big a bloc to pigeonhole into a single issue.

“Immigration as a defining Latino issue is dead,” he said.

A recent poll by Voto Latino on swing state voters found a hefty percentage of female Hispanic voters were eyeing Robert Kennedy Jr. despite his worm-eaten brain.

While Biden led Trump in a head-to-head match up, adding Kennedy to the options took 12 percentage points away from Biden.

Those women are frustrated by inflation, housing prices and a budget that increasingly doesn’t pencil out. They want an alternative, a change in a status quo that isn’t working for their families.

Trump even played off that fiscal crunch reality at his recent Nevada rally — promising to end taxes on tips if he is elected, a huge issue in a state that relies on a service economy.

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Keeping families together vs. breaking them apart.

So Biden’s moves are meant to fix his immigration problem, but not the immigration problem.

Maybe he can’t offer low grocery bills, but family safety is a pretty good pitch.

The question becomes, does Biden’s double play do enough to overcome the fiscal malaise of these disenchanted voters?

“This gives him ownership of a popular, reasonable plan,” Madrid said. “Does it help? Yes. Is it too little too late? We’re gonna find out.”

What else you should be reading

The must-read: Under siege, 3 world leaders say: Bring it on
The Supreme mess: Justice Alito talked about political divide on purported secret recordings
The L.A. Times Special: This California congressman is all over TV and TikTok, touting Biden ... and himself

Stay Golden,
Anita Chabria

P.S. If you haven’t yet spent some time with it, check out this fantastic package of stories, essays and art that honor L.A.’s queer community.

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Truly a groundbreaking collaboration by some of our most talented staff.

Illustration of people ripping out of traditional clothes.
(Marco Tirado For the Times)

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-06-06/queer-lgbtq-america-protect-kids


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