In Texas, a Proxy Fight Over Democrats’ Stance on Immigration

The inaction could prove costly this election year: Some organizations that helped win crucial swing states for Democrats in 2018 and 2020 have no plans to knock on doors or call voters this midterm season, because they are so furious at the party’s stance on immigration.

Among them is Lucha, an advocacy group in Arizona widely credited with helping secure wins for Ms. Sinema and Mr. Kelly, the first Democratic senators to represent the state in decades.

“For that incredible effort and incredible turnout, we’ve gotten very minimal results,” said Tomas Robles, its co-executive director. “Democrats are falling into the same trap — there’s a lack of political will and courage.”

In Laredo, a city of roughly 261,000 people where downtown shops and parks seem almost to blend into the border, the nation’s immigration fight is personal. Members of the No Border Wall coalition, which is nonpartisan, are quick to note that they have successfully repelled four attempts by Democratic and Republican administrations to build a wall in the region.

But Laredo Democrats united in their battle against the wall are split on support for Mr. Cuellar and Ms. Cisneros, and their approaches to immigration. Mr. Cuellar continues to follow the path taken by the Obama administration, which relied on an aggressive border enforcement strategy meant to entice Republican support for a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

His backers tend to subscribe to the same philosophy — or at least to accept it. “He’s much more conservative than I would prefer,” said Melissa R. Cigarroa, board president of the Rio Grande International Study Center. “But he doesn’t stop working for the community.”

But supporters of Ms. Cisneros argue that the emphasis on border security has not helped create legal avenues to citizenship. It also, they argue, does little to counter an “us-versus-them” approach pressed by Republicans that has put asylum seekers and migrants in danger. “Cisneros comes from that side, of helping families,” said Juan Livas, an immigration activist and co-founder of the Laredo Immigrant Alliance.

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