Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision to block President Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a senior Joe Biden campaign adviser received a congratulatory note from a lawmaker in a key battleground state.
“The very first text message I got shortly after 10 a.m. when the Supreme Court issued its ruling was from an elected official in Pennsylvania,” the senior adviser told The Daily Beast, “who was proud of the decision and asking how he can help.”
“We’re seeing this from around the country,” the senior advisor added.
As Democrats and Republicans once again prepare to face off over immigration ahead of November, as they did in 2016 and 2018, Team Biden has been privately crafting an outreach strategy that goes beyond the traditional Democratic election model to target states with large Latino populations. Starting with the launch of a $15 million ad on Thursday, the first of the general election in six states that Trump won, including blue states he flipped, the campaign is expanding outreach to areas with smaller Latino immigrant populations where razor-thin margins could determine who wins the White House.
“The livelihoods of so many teeter on what happens on Nov. 3,” the senior adviser said. “And that doesn’t just mean in states like Arizona and Florida, but it also means that it will have an outsized influence in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and other places with very fast growing immigrant and Latino populations that are poised to be decision makers in this election.”
The Biden campaign’s multi-million ad buy will run in English and Spanish and comes as Trump continues to lash out publicly as he plummets in polls and grapples with an unfavorable decision from the top court. The president, himself, even speculated whether the Supreme Court liked him in a tweet Thursday.
Shortly after the ruling became public, the Democratic National Committee convened a joint press briefing call with Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Filemon Vela (D-TX) and the Biden campaign to address the party’s pathway to victory and pro-immigration platform, stressing at several junctures that the ruling could be overturned, and that the futures of DACA recipients rest solely on the outcome of the November election.
“To me, the message from today is yes, this is a victory, but we are not done,” DNC Member and Dreamer Ellie Perez said. “We’re not even close to being done. This just adds more fuel to our fire.”
Asked by The Daily Beast how Biden’s campaign and the DNC plans to maximize the ruling—which has temporarily protected over 600,000 Dreamers from deportation for the time being —in the near future, top Democrats laid out a series of ways they intend to shield it from Trump and the GOP’s expected attacks at dismantling the progress.
“We know that the pathway to victory in November really runs through the Latino community,” Julie Chávez Rodríguez, a senior Biden adviser, told The Daily Beast. Chávez Rodríguez, who is the granddaughter of famed labor leader César Chávez and the highest-ranking Latina on the campaign, said that they are in the process of dedicating “a lot more investment” and “a lot more state infrastructure” in that area in the next few weeks.
The campaign sees that investment largely as part of their ongoing efforts to build a broad coalition of support. Nearly one year ago, in June 2019, Biden penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald addressing immigration ahead of the first Democratic debate in the South Florida city. In it, he wrote that “DREAMers are Americans, and Congress needs to make it official. The millions of undocumented people in the United States can only be brought out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats.”
On Thursday, he echoed those sentiments, but went a step further, promising to “send a bill to Congress that creates a clear roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers and 11 million undocumented people who are already strengthening our nation” on the first day of his administration. “It’s long overdue,” Biden wrote in a statement.
At the party level, which is working in tandem with Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, chairman Tom Perez told The Daily Beast that the committee now has internal capabilities to engage Latino voters and other immigrant communities through “sub-ethnicity modeling,” a micro-targeting voter outreach mechanism that did not previously exist within their infrastructure.
“If you want to persuade a person named Perez in Florida to vote for Joe Biden, it’s really important to know what country of origin Perez is from,” he said. “If you meet Perez in Nevada, you want to know if he’s from Mexico or if he’s from the Philippines. And we have the capacity now to do that.”
Senior Biden advisors also point to Republicans as potentially critical components of their follow up outreach on the DACA ruling, pointing to current polling that shows that a majority of Americans support extending protections for undocumented children. A poll from Politico/Morning Consult released last week concluded that 78 percent of registered voters surveyed support allowing Dreamers to stay in the country.
While Biden is outperforming Trump with Latinos, surveys show there’s still ground to be made up. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week, Biden led Trump 57 percent to 31 percent among that bloc. But he’s down 9 points from the previous poll.
And as he continues to tie himself to the merits of the former administration under his old boss, Biden also has to overcome less rosy components of the Obama White House’s record on immigration. During his time in office, Obama deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants without criminal records, a move that negatively contributed to Biden’s performance among some progressives and Latinos during the Democratic primary. In February, Biden said the move was a “big mistake.”
Still, throughout much of the primary leading up to voting, Biden also lagged significantly behind his closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with Latinos. Sanders ultimately swept the Nevada caucuses in large part due to his voter registration and outreach in the state.
“That’s why he needs to sing from the mountain tops of what he would do,” María Teresa Kumar, the CEO of Voto Latino, told The Daily Beast, addressing a question about how the former vice president can move beyond the more harmful elements of Obama’s record on the subject.
Kumar recalled being impressed by what she described as Biden’s evolution on immigration from watching him for nearly a decade.
“In my working with the administration over a period of those eight years, I saw a man who didn’t quite understand the Latino experience to at the very end of those eight years recognizing that [it was] the same treatment, the same trepidation, the same obstacles that his grandfather faced coming from Ireland,” she said about Biden. “And that shook him to the core.”
“I would actually venture to say that he may have understood that journey of that immigrant experience of having this perception of America and then coming here and being hurt by it in a different way than I would even the president did at the time,” she said.