With Democrats controlling the House and migrants still inundating the southern border, it’s clear that President Trump won’t fix the nation’s immigration problems in his first term.
It’s less clear whether voters will hold that against him.
The president’s management shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security, with the ouster of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the appointment of Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as acting secretary, is serving as a flash point for people who care deeply about Mr. Trump’s agenda of border security.
Jane Romines, a Democrat from Missouri who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, said the president’s actions lately are making her “wonder if he wants to not be reelected.” But she told The Washington Times in a Facebook message that she’s more concerned about a sprawling conservation bill that Mr. Trump signed last month than his actions on immigration and border security.
“I think he is doing a great job,” she said. “I think we need the wall [and] more security at the border. I will probably vote for him again because I don’t want to see the Democrats undo everything he’s done.”
Wanda Herbert of Hartselle, Alabama, said in a Facebook post that the president can’t fix the border problems all by himself.
“As long as Democrats, liberals and the media continues to spew there is no border problem, the crimes committed by illegal immigrants are not reported to the public, criminal illegal immigrants are protected in sanctuary cities and states, and Trump doesn’t have full support of Republicans, he cannot do it alone,” she wrote.
But the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks stricter limits on legal immigration, said it’s crucial for Mr. Trump to nominate a new DHS secretary who is “a strong, respected outsider.”
“We’ve seen what happens when he trusts immigration neophytes or Obama administration holdovers to implement his agenda,” the group tweeted.
Mr. Trump came into office promising to straighten out the immigration system and strengthen the border. While a government shutdown and a threat to close the border haven’t eased the migrant crisis, Republican consultant Chris Grant of Big Dog Strategies of Buffalo, New York, and Washington said Trump supporters believe he’s working hard for them.
“The president has done a tremendous job showing his voters that he’s willing to fight the fight that they want him to fight,” Mr. Grant said in an interview. “Republican voters instinctively know what a major crisis the border is. Immigration didn’t get messed up over the course of half of a presidential term. People recognize that.”
As for the political risk for Mr. Trump in 2020 without an immigration solution, Mr. Grant said: “The president fighting on immigration is not a bad place for him to be. [His voters] have an advocate in the White House who is not going to take the D.C. establishment’s word for it.”
Some immigration hard-liners say the president is failing them, and they’ll hold him accountable next year.
“President Trump has already lost many former supporters like us because of numerous broken campaign promises on the very immigration issues that elected him,” said William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC in Raleigh, North Carolina. “He kept Obama’s [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] amnesty instead of ending it. He continues the disastrous catch-and-release presidential policies that are encouraging more caravans and a new unprecedented wave of fake asylum-seeking illegals.”
Worst of all, he said, “Trump and his surrogate Jared Kushner are endorsing and supporting legislative amnesty bills which encourage more illegals to enter and remain in the U.S. unlawfully while costing the president many base supporters.”
If the White House backs the DREAM Act proposal in the Senate that would create a path to citizenship for up to 2 million illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, he said, “the number of Trump supporters like us leaving the Trump train will more than quadruple.”
Trump campaign deputy Communications Director Erin Perrine said Mr. Trump “is keeping his biggest campaign promise to every American — he is building the wall at the southern border.”
“By the end of his first term in office there is expected to be around 450 miles of wall,” she said. “Meanwhile, Democrats sit firmly in crisis denial mode while President Obama’s own Secretary of DHS Jeh Johnson acknowledges the security and humanitarian crisis we face. Democrats have opposed border security at every turn and even tried to block the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border.”
Ms. Perrine said in a statement, “When it comes to border security and fighting to curb illegal immigration, America knows no bigger champion than President Trump. He will continue to fight for the safety and security of every American.”