Democrats are looking to turn the tables on border security as a campaign issue.
For months, Republicans have bashed President Joe Biden and the Democrats over conditions at the southern border. With the nation seeing record-breaking border crossings, that message is not expected to change in 2024.
But Democrats — including those in some competitive New York congressional districts — are vowing to flip the script, accusing House Republicans of playing politics by threatening to kill a bipartisan overhaul of the immigration system currently under negotiation between the Senate and the White House.
“I think it'll be a big vulnerability if [Republicans] don't actually try to get on board to negotiate a deal,” said Democrat Tom Suozzi, who is running to replace ousted Congressman George Santos in February’s special election.
Suozzi has repeatedly called on Biden and his party to go on offense on immigration. And in two recent developments, Democrats see opportunity: House Speaker Mike Johnson has dismissed a yet-to-be-revealed border security deal from the Senate as essentially dead-on-arrival in his chamber, while former President Donald Trump has urged GOP lawmakers to kill it.
“People want this issue resolved. And if you're refusing to even negotiate, what's the purpose of you being in Congress?” Suozzi told Spectrum News.
The dynamic is also playing out in New York’s 4th congressional district, where Laura Gillen is running in the Democratic primary to take on Nassau County Republican Congressman Anthony D’Esposito.
“Anthony D’Esposito is on the Homeland Security Committee and he is doing nothing except grandstanding off this issue instead of doing what the people in this district elected him to do, which is legislate and govern,” Gillen said.
Whether this messaging will move the polls remains to be seen.
In an interview, D’Esposito dismissed the Democrats’ attacks, while also voicing skepticism about the not-yet-released Senate bill.
“This is an election year scheme that they're trying to pull over the American people's eyes,” he said. “I'm happy to read it. I'm happy to look at it. But my question to the naysayers and those who have said, ‘Well, this is the best thing that you're going to get, you just have to accept it and vote for it.’ I think that's insane.”
Rep. Nick LaLota, a Republican representing a competitive Long Island seat, called any Democratic attempt to change the narrative “quite desperate.”
“It's probably gaslighting to try to pretend that they somehow have the high ground on border security and immigration when they’ve totally failed for the last three years,” he said.
In the fast-approaching special election in New York’s 3rd district, immigration and the state’s migrant crisis are dominating the ad wars.
The Republican in the race, Mazi Pilip, has cast blame for the migrant surge on both Biden and Suozzi. In a recent statement, she said lawmakers should come together on a “bipartisan solution” to address the border as soon as possible.