Above and beyond anything in this column: the Republican immigration policy of separating children from their parents and putting them into cages is abhorrent morally and a terrible policy for the United States. It is a political policy that is designed to be so cruel, that refugees, asylum seekers, anyone desperate for a better life, would avoid coming to the United States. And, it is not clear that that even this cruel intention is true: at this point there has been no meaningful drop in immigrants (although, the policy would have to be sustainable to stop people from starting the journey north). But, Republicans also think they benefit politically from moving political discussion to immigration.
In general, Republican immigration policy is much more popular than Republican healthcare policy. There are aspects of the Republican immigration policy that are actually quite popular: limiting legal immigration (which Democrats oppose) and a higher percentage of immigrants with higher education (which Democrats do not oppose). There are also aspects of the Republican immigration policy that are quite unpopular: deporting Dreamers and deporting Dreamer's parents (both of which Democrats oppose). In contrast, the Republican healthcare plan (allowing healthcare to be sold that does not include essential benefits, making healthcare un-affordable for people with pre-existing conditions) is very unpopular, while the Democrats healthcare plan (giving anyone the option to buy Medicare) is extremely popular.
Thus, in general, shifting the political discussion from healthcare to immigration is a win for Republicans. Democrats edge in the healthcare policy debate is shocking:
But, the current Republican policy of stripping young children from their parents and locking them into cages dulls any advantages that the Republicans may have on immigration. Only a small majority of Republicans support this plan (maybe 55 percent of so), while wide majorities of Democrats and Independents oppose it (policy is polling at about 25 to 30 percent overall). Beyond the obvious cruelty of the policy (again, by design), it also shifts the immigration focus from the frame of security (where Americans worry about immigrants) to cultural (where Americans embrace immigrants).
In a frame about security, even Democrats are somewhat concerned about legal immigrants.
But, the story shifts dramatically as Americans start to think about immigrants impact on the economy or the culture. And, current Republican policy is not gaining traction as a national security issue, but a humanitarian one. So, as people are likely to think of innocent children as future productive and interesting members of our society, than a security threat. The more people think of the immigration policy as one about our humanity, the worse the policy works for the Republicans.
Also, the last time Republicans tried to shift the debate to immigration, it was about deporting Dreamers. That was equally stupid, as everyone loves Dreamers: