EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Illegal immigration will remain a hot-button issue with Texas voters through November and will cost Democrats at least two Congressional spots and half a dozen seats in the Statehouse, Texas’ GOP leader says.

“The impending repeal of Title 42 is going to take a bad situation – a humanitarian disaster at the border with 2 million-plus illegal crossings and all of the attending drug trafficking and smuggling and crime that goes along with it – and amplify it and make it worse,” said Matt Rinaldi, chair of the Republican Party of Texas. Immigration “definitely will be one of the hot button items, if not the hot button item” in the mid-term elections.

Rinaldi was in El Paso late Tuesday to meet with local GOP leaders over outreach efforts. El Paso County Republican leaders are celebrating a double-digit increase in voter turnout in the March primary and a reported downturn in the Democratic vote. However, the County Elections Department reports that twice as many Democrats are still turning out at the polls than Republicans in El Paso.

Nonetheless, recent opinion polls show President Biden’s approval rating is falling, especially among Hispanics.

Texas Republicans say that has to do with everything from inflation to a disconnect with family values to allowing unauthorized migrants to “cut in line.”

“We’ve seen food shortages and prices going through the roof and working families not being able to feed (their own), not having money to buy gas – which is $4 a gallon,” Rinaldi said. “This has been a disastrous administration for working families; that’s why families in South Texas are coming to the Republican Party in greater numbers than ever […] They’re looking at the policies of Joe Biden that are causing all of that and they’re looking at the alternative of the Republican Party.”

El Paso County GOP Chair Ray Baca said the party is approaching Hispanic voters under the banner of family values.

“We are more of a pro-life party, more of an education party. The Democrats don’t support the values they support. The Democrats are busy teaching grade-school kids about transgenderism. We believe people should be able to take their own tax money and place their kids in the school of their choice,” Baca said.

Trucking crisis a ‘victory’ for Abbott

Rinaldi defended Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s showdown this month with the Biden administration that slowed down or stranded thousands of commercial trucks subjected to secondary inspections by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“The governor is seeing tremendous success […] He used border crossings and inspections as leverage to get Mexican states to enforce the law on their side of the border and got four agreements” with them, the GOP state chair said. “This has been a tremendous success for the governor in one week. If we hold them to their terms, if we follow up with them, this could have a real effect” on illegal immigration.

Border business leaders said the slowdown cost them more than a billion dollars and caused temporary shortages and price hikes with products not arriving on time to markets or factories.

But Rinaldi said Abbott made his point and moved the immigration debate forward.

“Truck inspections wasn’t a long-term solution. It was to put pressure on Mexican states to police their side of the border – and it worked,” he said. “They were implemented for less than a week, there was an agreement reached with every Mexican governor (in states that border Texas) and those policies are no longer in place.”

Rinaldi says Abbott is en route to a “decisive” victory over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in November. “I see no reason why the governor wouldn’t win by anything else but double-digits, especially given the Biden administration doubling down on bad policies that are affecting every single family,” he said.