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Kevin Yoder’s latest immigration flip-flop makes Sharice Davids’ ICE flub a moot point

Rep. Kevin Yoder
Rep. Kevin Yoder AP

The furious debate about whether Sharice Davids, the Democrat challenging Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, does or does not want to abolish ICE — and fyi, she doesn’t — just had the air let out of its tires by Yoder’s own latest immigration transformation.

Davids stumbled in remarks on the podcast “Millennial Politics,” that seemed to contradict her stated position that she wants to reform U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement but isn’t pushing for its abolition. “I would,” she said in the July interview, when asked whether she’d defund the agency that enforces our immigration laws. Then she compounded that mistake by not immediately coming forward to explain herself, even as a Yoder spokesman described her remarks as “her radical beliefs on full display.”

But she is also a first-time candidate, while Yoder is a four-term incumbent. His repeated reversals on the broader immigration issue aren’t out of nowhere in the suburban 3rd Congressional District, which narrowly preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump two years ago. But Yoder’s shifts do make the Congressional Leadership Fund PAC’s attack ad about Davids’ wobble on this issue a truly brazen insult to voters.

Maybe you remember when Yoder wanted to make it easier for those fleeing domestic abuse or threats from gangs to claim asylum in the United States? “As the son of a social worker,” he said, “I have great compassion for those victims of domestic violence anywhere, especially as it concerns those nations that turn a blind eye to the crimes of domestic violence.” Well, sorry Mom, but that was before some Trump administration officials complained, and Laura Ingraham tweeted that the congressman “should stop selling out the Trump agenda for his reelection.”

Now Yoder, who chairs the subcommittee that’s responsible for homeland security funding, says the asylum proposal “may be too controversial to make it through the process” and won’t even be considered.

Davids may want to thank her opponent for putting her screw-up on ICE in perspective. Because taking a righteous stand based on values you claimed to have learned from your mother and then ditching it under pressure is not the same as fumbling around in one of your first interviews as a political candidate.

Her feelings about this issue come in part from her own mother, a Native American military veteran who raised Davids on her own in Leavenworth: “When you talk about the historical context of ICE being rooted in treating a group of people as if there’s a threat or that they’re ‘the enemy’ or something to that effect,” she said on the podcast, “that’s exactly how the federal government approached Native Americans until not that long ago ... I just feel like I’m constantly seeing parallels between what is happening right now and what has happened through the course of our federal government’s history.”

Davids has put out an ad of her own, in which she says, “You probably saw an ad from Kevin Yoder’s special interest friends twisting my words. Well, they’re wrong. I don’t support abolishing ICE.”

When Yoder’s own immigration views are so malleable they keep melting, it’s hard to see how this is a winning issue for him with either immigration hard-liners or more moderate voters.