- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Americans are increasingly saying, “Build the wall.”

A majority of voters now say they want the government to finish construction of former President Donald Trump’s border wall, according to polling from the Senate Opportunity Fund, which also found Americans itching for a tougher approach to illegal immigration than President Biden is taking.

They see the migrant surge as a “crisis” and blame Mr. Biden for causing it, the poll showed.

By a large margin — 71% to 19% — voters said they want the administration to get tougher on illegal immigration by, among other things, enforcing laws and ending incentives.

Those are sobering statistics for the White House, which is facing growing bipartisan unease on Capitol Hill over the state of the border. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress say the record pace of illegal immigration and the crowding in Border Patrol facilities have reached the point of a crisis. Mr. Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have rejected that label.

The border mess is hindering Mr. Biden’s attempts to celebrate the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package he signed into law this month.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki is inundated with border-related inquiries at the daily press briefing. Those questions also dog Mr. Biden as he travels around the country to tout his administration’s early achievements.

“For President Biden, the challenge is really that this is a political issue that Republicans see as giving them an advantage — particularly in the face of rising approval ratings for President Biden after passing the stimulus and passing that 100 million vaccines in arms mark,” Lara Fink, a Democratic strategist, told a local CBS affiliate during Mr. Biden’s trip last week to Atlanta.

The dissent surfaced again Tuesday ahead of Mr. Biden’s visit to Ohio after Republican Senate candidate Jane Timken released a television advertisement accusing the president of caring more about illegal immigrants than struggling Americans.

“During the pandemic, Ohio’s small businesses and families struggled to survive,” Ms. Timken says in the ad. “What was Joe Biden’s first legislative proposal? A liberal plan to give amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants.”

Mr. Biden’s predecessor in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump, is saying in statements and interviews that Mr. Biden has squandered the most secure border in U.S. history.

A public that was often skeptical of Mr. Trump’s immigration policies while he was in office seems to be coming around to the former president’s approach. Growing support for the border wall is a particularly striking change.

When Mr. Trump proposed a wall during the 2016 campaign, it cleaved the country, with supporters and opponents about evenly divided. While Mr. Trump was carrying out those plans as president, support slipped, with 55% opposed, according to a 2019 survey from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The Senate Opportunity Fund’s polling now shows 38% opposed and 53% in support of the wall.

Much of the change appears to be among those on the left. The Chicago Council poll showed 85% of Democrats opposed to the wall, but the Senate Opportunity Fund found 63% of liberals opposed.

On Capitol Hill, some senators who were wary of Mr. Trump’s wall-building plans now say completing the barrier should be part of any border strategy Mr. Biden pursues as he tries to control the surge.

The White House and Mr. Mayorkas have tried to blame Mr. Trump for the surge by saying he left a “gutted” immigration system.

Voters aren’t buying it.

In the Senate Opportunity Fund survey, 59% blamed Mr. Biden and 28% exonerated him. Another 12% were unsure.

Migrants themselves say it was Mr. Biden and his policy changes that spurred them to make the trip. They said they figured it would be easier to jump the border and burrow into the U.S. under the new administration.

For the most part, that’s not true. Single adults caught jumping the border are being expelled under a coronavirus pandemic health order — one of the few get-tough Trump policies that the Biden team has retained.

But in cases involving children and families, illegal immigrants are having better luck gaining a foothold.

Nearly 10,000 unaccompanied juveniles crossed the border without permission last month.

Mr. Biden has rebuffed calls to visit the border and said he will go eventually.

Members of Congress are making the trek and say the situation is eye-popping.

“I just think more people from up here go to the border, see things for themselves, the better it is because I think we’re kind of locked into competing parallel universes when it comes to what’s happening. I think it’s good when people see it for themselves,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

He said he will be part of a group of 15 senators making a visit soon.

Mr. Cornyn has become a bipartisan fulcrum on immigration. He made a trip with Rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat, and signed a letter to Mr. Biden with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat.

Other polling firms have also detected newfound interest in border security.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey released last week found just 41% approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of immigration, and a Hill/HarrisX poll released this week found 76% of voters labeled the border situation a crisis.

The Senate Opportunity Fund survey polled 802 registered voters nationally, with an oversample of 417 voters in states considered contested in elections. The survey was taken March 16-18.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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