Americans were given a glimpse of far out of the mainstream many Democratic politicians have drifted when all ten candidates on the podium during last month’s first debate raised an affirmative hand to the question of whether their health insurance plan would cover illegal aliens. It is a position shared by a majority of the 20-plus Democratic presidential candidates, but one which risks alienating conservative Democrats, Independents and even Hispanic voters.
“I think there has to be some moderation. I disagree with the candidates’ positions about providing health care to undocumented immigrants, when you have Americans who don’t have health care,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), following the June Democratic presidential primary debate, who surmised their answer “wasn’t thought through.”
Garcia is not the only one who disagrees.
The embrace of health care coverage may have been popular within the debate hall, but a CNN survey taken several weeks later found 59 percent of Americans opposed the idea. In a mid-July NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist College poll, the opposition was even higher – and not just among Republicans.
Asked whether “a national health insurance program available” to illegal aliens is a good or a bad idea, 66 percent of all Democrats said it is a good idea, while 32 percent disagree. But when broken down along ideological identification, moderate Democrats were more inclined to voice opposition (47 percent) than support (43 percent) and even more Independent voters (67 to 27 percent) rejected the idea.
Of the handful of candidates who have released immigration plans, it does not appear they have thought beyond the Democratic primaries and caucuses. In her plan, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls for the near-abolition of ICE ; admitting six to eight times more refugees than Trump has to date; ending private detention centers; and decriminalizing illegal immigration.
Many of those same policies, are backed by Sen. Kamala Harris of California with one notable exception – decriminalization of illegal immigration. Despite voicing support for it during the first debate, Harris flipped her stance last week.
“That is not correct, I’m not in favor of decriminalizing or not having consequence for, let me be very clear, we have to have a secure border, but I am in favor of saying that we’re not going to treat people who are undocumented cross the border as criminals, that is correct, that is correct,” Harris said during an appearance last Friday on The View.
She then clarified: “I would not make it a crime punishable by jail. It should be a civil enforcement issue but not a criminal enforcement issue.”
Perhaps Harris’ campaign staff took note of the findings of the PBS/NPR/Marist poll that found 68 percent of Independents and 58 percent of so-called moderate Democrats who think that is a bad idea.
For months Democrats have been able to slide with canned comments about “comprehensive immigration reform” and criticisms of the President Trump’s rhetoric without having to come up with real solutions or policy specifics.
As Tara Golshan of the liberal Vox writes, “Still, immigration remains one of the most contentious policy issues in the United States. And Democrats’ plans so far aren’t addressing the most divisive issues, including whom to deport and whom to let in.”
So far the Democrats who have addressed those divisive issues have taken positions at odds with moderates in their party and average Americans. Will any of that change during two days of televised debates on CNN? Tune in.