Sen. Maggie Hassan may have thought a photoshoot in front of Trump’s border wall was smart politics. But for members of the New Hampshire Democratic Latino Caucus, it was the last straw.
“That was the last kick in the butt for the immigrant community, and all of us as Latinos,” said Eva Castillo.
Castillo is executive director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and, until recently, a high-profile member of the New Hampshire Democratic Latino Caucus. But on Tuesday she and several of her fellow leaders in the Latino community sent the caucus a joint letter of resignation from the caucus to state party chair Ray Buckley over the behavior of Hassan and fellow Democrat incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas.
“For many years, we have struggled, unsuccessfully, to have our voices heard; this has never been made clearer than by the recent comments and position taken by Sen. Maggie Hassan and Congressman Chris Pappas concerning immigration,” they wrote. “We take from these signals that our community does not matter, and that immigration and humanitarian steps are only welcome when white refugees are in need; when black and brown asylum seekers come needing shelter, we start to demand more ‘border security.’
“The dangerous rhetoric and its accompanying attitude is something we expect from the New Hampshire Republican Party and their fear-mongering slew of candidates, but when one of our Democratic leaders acts in the same way, we must draw a line,” they added.
The letter was signed by Castillo, caucus vice-chair Sebastian Fuentes, delegate at large Marcus Ponce de Leon, and state Rep. Maria Perez (D-Milford).
“It’s pretty pathetic they are using immigrants as tokens,” Castillo told NHJournal.
Their anger is in response to the two Democrats’ support for keeping Title 42 authority in place at the border. That authority, put in place by the Trump administration when the COVID-19 pandemic began, has been used to turn away some 2 million would-be border crossers. Liberals and progressives say they want to end it. Pappas and Hassan say they want to keep it.
And that is not all. Both Democrats are talking up border security as a priority. Despite having repeatedly voted against funding a border wall, Hassan is now touting her support for “physical barriers” in a video on Twitter.
Castillo said Hassan’s video was an example of shameless pandering, as was her call for more “barriers” at the border.
“What, are you going to put up hedges?” she asked.
On Jack Heath’s radio show Wednesday morning, Pappas repeated his support for keeping Title 42 in place. “I think the administration has to be mindful of what their plan is to make sure the border is safe.”
Castillo said Pappas and Hassan’s move to the right on immigration makes no sense. No Republican was going to vote for either candidate, she said, and their maneuvers are now alienating the progressive voters they need.
“They’re not getting any votes from Republicans,” Castillo said.
She was not the only Granite State progressive upset by their behavior.
Rep. David Meuse (D-Portsmouth) was shocked by Hassan’s “Trump Wall” video and he called on the senator to apologize.
“106 secs of posturing and ingratiation to an audience unlikely to vote for her has left Sen. Maggie Hassan with thousands of bridges to repair not only to Latinos—but to every NH ally who has supported compassionate immigration reform. Make this right @SenatorHassan,” he tweeted.
Outspoken progressive firebrand state Rep. Sherry Frost (D-Dover) joined him.
“I stand in complete solidarity with my immigrant brothers, sisters, & others. I know this isn’t a new (gross) position for @SenatorHassan but I hoped she could change. I have no idea why @ChrisPappasNH is following along.”
Hassan and Pappas’ shift to the right on the border makes little sense to Republicans, either.
“Pretending to support a wall at our southern border won’t prevent the political walls from caving in on Maggie Hassan,” NRSC chair Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told NHJournal. “As someone who voted with Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer three times to defund wall construction last year, Maggie Hassan’s 2021 actions speak louder to New Hampshirite voters than any 2022 words or border visits will. That’s why Granite Staters will send a Republican to the U.S. Senate to replace her.”
A New Hampshire GOP strategist who spoke to NH Journal on background pointed out the reaction from progressives was not merely grousing. It was planned.
“The thing that really stuck out to me wasn’t the fact that the letter went out, it was the coordination and public anger afterward. People like David Meuse, Sherry Frost, and Wendy Thomas — well-known officials in New Hampshire Democrat circles — took to Twitter and publicly excoriated Hassan and Pappas for the decision, choosing to stand with the Latino Caucus instead of their vulnerable incumbent federal delegation.
“When Hassan and Pappas need these folks’ support down the line, you can bet they won’t answer the phone,” the strategist said.
Representatives for Pappas and Hassan did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. So far, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley is silent as well.