Joe Biden’s Top Latina Adviser Quits Over His Immigration Rhetoric

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • Vanessa Cárdenas, a senior Latina adviser for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, has quit over his apparent lack of empathy when speaking publicly about immigration issues.
  • Unlike more progressive candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden has maintained a moderate stance on immigration, refusing to end all deportations or decriminalize illegal immigration. 
  • Many immigration activists have criticized Biden for the record number of deportations that occurred under the Obama administration, and they have called on him to apologize.

A senior Latina adviser for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has quit over what her friends claim is Biden’s refusal to tone down his rhetoric on immigration enforcement.

Vanessa Cárdenas, who joined Biden’s campaign once it formally launched in late April, has resigned from her post as national coalitions director earlier this month, Politico first reported. Cárdenas was the most senior Latina staffer on the Biden campaign before her departure.

Friends familiar with Cárdenas’ thinking say she grew frustrated over the former vice president’s apparent lack of empathy when discussing immigration on the campaign trail, and because she felt the campaign was not heeding her advice on Latino-related issues.

“Vanessa kept banging her head against the wall trying to get them to take the community more seriously,” one friend told Politico about her decision. “And Biden just really won’t change when it comes to the way he talks about immigration. It became too much.”

“The campaign is just hyper-focused on whites in Iowa and African-Americans and it placed less value on Latino outreach,” the friend, who is also an immigration activist, said about the situation.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Vice President Joe Biden (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Cárdenas — who formerly worked with Emily’s List, the National Immigration Forum, and other progressive organizations — updated her Twitter bio to indicate she is no longer affiliated with the Biden campaign. The entire incident marks the latest dust-up between Biden and a Democratic electorate that has turned sharply left on the issue of immigration.

Since the former vice president launched his presidential campaign, he has been the target of protest from activists who are livid at the fact that the Obama administration allowed roughly three million deportations to take place in the span of eight years, the highest number in U.S. history.

Immigration activists, for example, stormed and occupied Biden’s Philadelphia campaign headquarters in July and demanded that he apologize for the three million deportations. Just days later during the July Democratic presidential debate, several audience members tried to drown Biden out by chanting, “Three million deportations!”

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the leading progressive candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, have both come out in favor of decriminalizing illegal immigration and placing a moratorium on all deportations, even deportations of those accused of heinous crimes. The moves have put pressure on other candidates to shift leftward on immigration.

However, Biden has not only shot down the idea of decriminalizing illegal immigration, but he also recently traded barbs with an immigration activist over his refusal to say he would ban all deportations if he were elected president.

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 16: Demonstrators march through downtown calling for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on August 16, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators were also calling for defunding local police. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Demonstrators march through Chicago calling for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“No. I will not stop all deportations. I will prioritize deportations, only people who have committed a felony or serious crime,” Biden told Carlos Rojas, an immigration activist, during a campaign event in South Carolina on Thursday.

Rojas then told Biden that he volunteered for Obama-Biden’s 2008 campaign, but he then became disillusioned with the high number of deportations under their watch. In response, Biden told Rojas he “should vote for Trump.” (RELATED: Biden Said He Didn’t ‘Lock People Up In Cages’ During The Debate. The Record Says Otherwise)

The exchange, while it took place after Cárdenas quit, was an example of what drove her to quit Biden’s campaign, according to people close to her.

“What happened last week was a perfect example of what Vanessa was dealing with,” the friend told Politico. “Biden just refuses to talk about the issue in a compassionate way.”

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