That criticism expanded this week into governor’s races in two Southwestern swing states, Arizona and Nevada. Katie Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state and front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor, urged Biden to reverse his “rash decision” and said lifting Title 42 “without a clear plan to secure our border would be a disaster.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are pouncing on the issue.
“Kelly voted to allow restrictions to be lifted, which will cause a massive new border surge,” a narrator says in the ad. “Tell Sen. Kelly: Stop voting with Biden and against Arizona.”
Kelly campaign spokeswoman Sarah Guggenheimer countered by saying the senator “has delivered increased border security resources, introduced bipartisan legislation to address the crisis, and has stood up to both the Biden administration and his own party to ensure a safe, humane, and orderly process at the border. ”
Biden administration on defense
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN this week his department has “plans” to address the expected surge. But he would not elaborate.
“I think we have to be very mindful of the fact that we are addressing enemies, and those enemies are the cartels and the smugglers, and I will not provide our plans to them. We are going to proceed with our execution, carefully, methodically , in anticipating different scenarios, “he said.
Vulnerable Democratic lawmakers plan to use a House Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Mayorkas next week to distance themselves from the Biden administration’s decision, congressional aides say. They plan to grill the secretary, whose answers could offer a window into how the White House will defend its position.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the administration was “planning and preparing” for the May 23 rollback of Title 42 but remains open to talks with lawmakers about immigration reform.
The Democratic divide over Title 42 pits candidates in swing states and vulnerable incumbents against not just Biden’s White House but more progressive Democrats and immigration advocates.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said this week that the Biden administration might need to delay the rollback of Title 42 until a clearer plan to mitigate the flow of migrants at the southern border is in place.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman said he understands why his colleagues running for reelection might be willing to come out against Biden.
“I think they are right to raise questions. This is a very serious issue,” said Peters, who is not up for reelection this year. “The senators have to take a position that they think is best for their state.”
Criticism across the midterm map
Meanwhile, Democratic opposition to the Biden administration’s move has mounted across the map of competitive Senate races in November’s midterm elections.
“I think there should be a little bit more thought given into that. And I do not think we’re quite there just yet, quite frankly,” Fetterman said in an interview.
US Rep. Conor Lamb, another Senate contender in Pennsylvania, told CNN he is a “skeptic” of the planned rollback.
“I will certainly listen to any argument that the administration wants to make,” Lamb said. “But you know, the pandemic is not over. That’s why Title 42 went into place was to just try to help control what was happening down there in light of the pandemic and how things can spread and particularly with these different variants.”
In Wisconsin, Democrats hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson this fall lambasted Biden over Title 42.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry have all called for the administration to offer a plan to keep both asylum seekers and U.S. residents safe before lifting the public health authority.
Democratic Senate candidates in red-leaning states have also spoken out.
“Prematurely ending this policy without a path forward does nothing to keep Americans safe, support our Border Patrol agents, protect asylum-seekers, or bring about the comprehensive fix our immigration system needs,” Ryan said.
And retired Marine Lucas Kunce, a top candidate for the open seat in Missouri, said, “Repealing Title 42 with no actual plan is not policy – it’s politics.”
CNN’s Lauren Fox, Priscilla Alvarez, Manu Raju, Paradise Afshar, Andy Rose and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.