Southern Border Crisis Could Cost Democrats Texas Congressional Seats

President Joe Biden’s crisis at the southern border is damaging his approval ratings around the country. The administration’s poor policies and messed-up messaging may also cost Democrats seats in Congress considered blue locks.

Illegal crossings in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas have reached levels not seen in decades, with almost 213,000 encounters reported by the Border Patrol in July. Property damage reports by ranchers and residents along the border are spiking, and crime of all types is rising in the area.

Voting patterns in three Congressional districts along the southern Texas border indicate they may become more competitive for Republicans as a result. All three seats are being heavily contested by the GOP in next year’s crucial midterm elections. 

All three districts voted for Joe Biden in 2020 by two to four percentage points. That margin is down sharply from 2016 when Hillary Clinton won each district by 17 to 22 points. The GOP-controlled Texas legislature is also redrawing several districts following the most recent census. 

Biden’s approval rating inside Texas among Latino voters is down to 35 percent, with 54 percent disapproving of the job he is doing. Only 29 percent of Texas Latino voters support Biden’s handling of the southern border.

Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-TX) district includes a large part of the Rio Grande Valley. He has recently become a visible critic of Biden’s immigration policies and has criticized the administration’s incentivization of illegal immigration.

Cuellar publicized photos of overcrowding at border detention facilities in Donna, Texas, as the White House implemented a media blackout earlier this year. He stepped up to defend Border Patrol agents using their horse reins to control running Haitian migrants near Del Rio last week. The White House announced that Border Patrol agents in Del Rio would no longer use horses as part of the border control work.

Republicans see Cuellar’s seat as vulnerable as he will be facing a more liberal primary challenger, and his immigration positions are not liberal enough for his party, even though the district as a whole is becoming more conservative towards border policies.

All South Texas districts might become competitive for Republicans in 2022 as the border crisis continues to pull down Biden’s approval numbers nationwide. If those districts move red next year, the Republican strategy to retake the House becomes more viable.