Viewpoint: Biden renews calls for bipartisan immigration reform

Viewpoint: Biden renews calls for bipartisan immigration reform
Karen Rubin, Columnist

On the day he became president on Jan. 20, 2021, Joe Biden sent a Comprehensive Immigration Bill to Congress that included a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people with temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers who risked their own lives during the COVID public health crisis, while strengthening labor protections for all workers.

It would implement smarter border protection solutions, add resources to clear court backlogs (years long), speed up processing, while prioritizing keeping families together. It would address the root cause of migration from Central and South America and insure the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution.

The president reintroduced the bill May 11, when Title 42 expired that and was widely expected to trigger a migrant “invasion.”

By averting the predicted border crisis Republicans had hyped and hoped for when Title 42 was lifted, Biden has demonstrated the benefits of expanding legal pathways for safe, orderly migration instead of having to deal with unlawful entry at the border.

But there are those whose focus is to maintain the cruelty and brutality of a purposefully dysfunctional immigration system.

Anti-immigration crusades have erupted periodically in American history, most notably after the projects of an industrializing America — the transcontinental railroad, skyscrapers, factories, roads, bridges and coal mines that waves of immigrants were here brought to build — were completed. Once built, the laborers were regarded as a threat to the livelihoods of native-born workers but more significantly the entrenched political power structure. All of a sudden, there was concern about the influx of “alien” culture and ideas (unions) – Catholics, Jews, Italians, Irish, Mexicans, Caribbeans, Latin Americans, Socialists! Communists! Bolsheviks!

But the anti-immigrant argument of protecting American workers doesn’t hold water now because we have a serious labor shortage, especially as the birthrate has declined while people are living longer (a factor in inflation that Republicans love to weaponize).

The anti-immigrant fervor today is mostly motivated because Republicans fear that if immigrants are granted citizenship, they will be a voting bloc for Democrats. That’s why the white nationalists who now dominate the Republican Party refuse to even legalize the status of Dreamers, who only know the United States as their home, but who are forced to live in insecurity over jobs, education, healthcare, deportation.

So instead, the white nationalists are overturning child labor laws and forcing women to give birth to supply cheap labor.

Beyond their refusal to work constructively to pursue concrete solutions, Republicans in Congress and their allies in the states are pushing an agenda that is making things worse at the border.

“When President Biden took office two years ago, he inherited an immigration system that the prior administration had gutted,” Ian Sams, special assistant to the president, wrote in a memo. “The prior administration wasted critical resources on an ineffective border wall [and cruel family separations], encouraged irregular migration by cutting off lawful pathways and abandoning efforts to improve conditions in the region that drive migration. Increased migration in the hemisphere, which began in 2018, has continued to rise as a result of ongoing political upheaval, economic crises, and criminal violence that went unaddressed by the prior administration.

“On top of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he introduced on Day One of his administration – which Congressional Republicans have blocked – President Biden has taken action on a plan to address these issues – and it is working.”

The Biden administration secured record levels of funding for border security, which enables U.S. law enforcement to catch record amounts of fentanyl and supports 23,000 agents to secure the border and apprehend smugglers. House Republicans voted against border security funding in FY22 and FY23, and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer said he wanted to cut off all funding for border security.

The current administration requested $4.9 billion for border security and management – to expand detention capacity, provide medical services, help track migrants as they await their immigration proceedings, ramp up removal flights and move migrants out of cities that are facing a significant surge. But the Republican Congress authorized only half.

While the Biden administration is expediting the immigration process to quickly remove individuals who don’t have a lawful basis to stay, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is instead busing (trafficking, you could say) unvetted migrants to New York and other cities across America bollixing this effort.

Like Abbott, Republican governor and presidential wannabe Ron DeSantis of Florida is using and abusing asylum-seekers for his own political gain, actually committing unlawful human trafficking (breaking the law he just signed!), by luring them onto buses and charter planes with promises of jobs and housing, and dumping them without warning or preparation on the doorstep of “blue” governors and mayors. (Meanwhile his draconian anti-immigrant laws are driving migrants to leave Florida, causing havoc for employers.)

Some 20 Republican-led states have filed a federal lawsuit to block the administration’s parole program – effectively seeking to shut down a lawful pathway that is working so that more will be forced to make unlawful crossings that strain border communities.

The Republicans need to be exposed and punished for their cynical, cruel crusade aimed at sabotaging effective, humane, comprehensive immigration reform so essential to sustaining economic progress, not to mention the myths we love to wrap ourselves in of the “American Dream,” “Beacon on a Hill,” “Land of Opportunity,” and of course, “American Exceptionalism.”

“Let us come together again in a bipartisan way to fix our broken immigration system for good,” Biden declared in his Immigrant Heritage Month proclamation for June. “Until the Congress acts, my administration will keep using every tool we have to make the system more orderly, safe, and humane.”

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