Migration will remain a difficult issue for Biden

WASHINGTON (HPD) — At a recent White House ceremony honoring America’s Hispanic heritage, President Joe Biden spoke about how immigration has defined the nation and should be celebrated.

“We say it all the time, but that’s who we are,” Biden said. “That is the nation. We are a nation of immigrants.”

Biden vowed to “fix our immigration system once and for all.” The president is tackling short-term issues, such as reunifying migrant families who were separated during the previous government and resolving bottlenecks in the asylum system. And his border officials have worked to reduce chaos along the US-Mexico border.

But an increasingly divided country cannot agree on what a long-term fix to the system should look like, basic questions like whether more or fewer immigrants should come in. And the future of key policies does not depend on the White House or the outcome of the midterm elections, but on the courts.

On Wednesday alone, an appeals court ruling left in limbo the fate of more than 600,000 migrants known as “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children. Biden said he would do whatever he could to help them, but warned that not everything is up to him.

“While we will use the tools we have to allow Dreamers to live and work in the only country they know as home, it is past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a path to naturalization,” said the president. it’s a statement.

The political background to all these challenges is harsh.

One in three adults in the United States believe there is an ongoing effort to replace the US-born with immigrants for electoral gain, according to a study by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Research on Immigration. Public Affairs. Some Republicans running for a seat in Congress are using midterm campaign ads to warn of an upcoming “invasion.” Some GOP leaders have flown or landed migrants who crossed the border into areas governed by Democrats, in a political move to draw attention to what they say is ongoing chaos on the country’s southern border.

Democrats, for their part, said they want to create a pathway for hundreds of thousands of migrants who came to the country as children to naturalize, saying they want policies that reflect the United States’ role as a safe haven for those fleeing persecutions. But they can’t agree on what those policies should look like.

And meanwhile, economists say the country needs more workers, not fewer, to meet its labor needs.

Biden, who inherited a hardened system former President Donald Trump steered to keep migrants out of the country, has withdrawn many of Trump’s most controversial policies. He has worked to streamline the handling of asylum cases and increase the number of refugees who can enter the United States.

And despite the record number of arrivals in recent months and all those heated campaign announcements, border posts are now largely free of the chaotic scenes that sparked outrage in previous years: migrants huddled under a bridge or small children crammed together. behind fences.

But Congress has repeatedly tried — and failed — to fix the country’s broken immigration system, attempting to push various proposals through the House and Senate only to see them fail, often spectacularly.

Despite the most recent court ruling on dreamers, it seems difficult for Congress to pass a substantial bill to protect a new generation of migrants in the way that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for its acronym in English) provided a way to obtain legal status a decade ago during the administration of President Barack Obama.

The president of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, mentioned the most recent bills approved by that body controlled by the Democrats, but which have languished in the Senate, where the Republicans, who have the same number of seats as the Democrats, can resort to delaying tactics to block them.

“House Democrats have twice passed the American Dream and Promise Act to ultimately offer Dreamers a permanent path to naturalization,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Senate Republicans must join forces with us to immediately pass this urgent and necessary initiative that has already been cleared in the House of Representatives and send it directly to the desk of President Biden.”

Congress is unlikely to act, so the president will have to find ways to innovate if he wants to improve the current situation, migrant advocates say.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Fund for Legal Defense and Education, acknowledged the “very real and undeniable challenges” that Biden faces, particularly at a time when an unprecedented number of migrants are arriving in the country. But Saenz says the government is falling short in dealing with the situation.

“I have found that this administration, particularly the White House, has not been creative or open to creative approaches to help,” Saenz said, speaking on immigration issues that extend beyond the border.

The discussion about the DACA program has gone on so long that many of those children are now in their 35s and have American children. And the limbo persists after Wednesday’s court ruling.

If the courts ultimately end the program, Biden is weighing a possible executive action that would grant some guarantees to Dreamers, according to officials briefed on the plan and who requested anonymity to speak to the HPD about the preparations.

The Trump administration said that DACA took away jobs from Americans because it allowed them to be replaced by migrants. That idea has been refuted by economists and is not shared by most Americans either. Two-thirds believe that the diversity of the population makes America stronger, and the number of those who support a path to legal status for DACA recipients far outnumbers those who are against, according to the HPD-NORC poll.

But the deep fears expressed by some Americans help explain how the issue gives momentum to those who oppose immigration. And the idea of ​​a mess on the border between the United States and Mexico also animates the debate between those who are for and against.

Even at a time when authorities’ encounters with migrants at the border have risen to unprecedented numbers, there is now a period of relative calm compared to the shocking turmoil that has characterized recent years.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials say the changes to their processing system deserve at least some of the credit for increased efficiency and improved communication with authorities. Mexican authorities about when and where migrants are arriving.

“There’s really a lot of painstaking, detailed, careful work going on to control this flow,” Commissioner Chris Magnus said. He said migrants are rigorously screened and vetted, and careful steps are taken to ensure they are channeled through the proper immigration routes.

Critics, including some Democrats, say the government is letting too many people into the country and should be deporting or detaining more.

“If you don’t deport people, they’re going to see the border as a speed hump,” Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar told Fox News. “We must deport people. We have to deport those who are not supposed to be here.”

Overall, migrants have been removed 1.8 million times since the COVID-19 pandemic began under an emergency health measure known as Title 42, which allows the government to immediately remove asylum seekers whenever and when their countries are considered safe.

Although Biden agreed in late March to end the program, it remains in place for now due to a court order.

Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub, a nonprofit organization that supports immigration law reform, said that regardless of whether the regulations remain in place or disappear, migrants will continue to arrive at the border because they live in poor countries and dangerous and they calculate that staying there is worse than the journey, “although it also carries dangers.”

The United States continues to try to atone for Trump-era family separations in which some 5,500 children were taken from their parents. To date, only about 600 families have been reunited, in part due to considerable obstacles imposed during the Trump administration.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has filed lawsuits over the separations and manages the reunifications, said that while the Biden administration has been “working constructively” to reunite families , worries that the splits — which made international headlines when they happened — have been largely forgotten. “The truth is that there are still hundreds of young children who have not returned to their parents,” he noted.


Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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