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With so much negative news on the immigration front in the previous months, President Joe Biden’s announcement last week about the extension of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid to Dreamers was like a balm. The positive reactions began immediately, from the very beneficiaries of the measures to legislators and pro-immigrant groups.
The news was also like an oasis in the middle of the desert that the promise to improve the situation of millions of immigrants has become. They have waited more than three decades to simply feel recognized in a society that uses them in its economy, but doesn’t take them into consideration in the realm of its legal structure and immigration reform.
Indeed, we need more actions like President Biden’s recent ones, considering that the possibilities of legislative immigration reform are zero at this point in time, with a House of Representatives in Republican control and a Speaker, Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California, who warned that nothing benefitting immigrants will see the light of day,
In fact, this week the House Judiciary Committee will consider a Republican bill introduced on Monday that brings together Donald Trump’s most restrictive and punishing measures; among them, undermining asylum laws and permitting the detention of entire families at the border.
But this Tuesday, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menéndez, brought forward an immigration plan that does not require congressional intervention and which, among other things, would expedite the process for asylum cases and also the deportations of those who do not have credible cases; creates Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Central America; and proposes a humanitarian pardon (parole) for the 12 million undocumented people now living in fear of deportation.
If we look closely, this plan opens up a new path not only in the immigration debate, but to stand up real solutions that take into account, above all, the lives of millions of human beings; of entire families who work arduously, day after day, to keep local economies afloat, working jobs that only immigrants are likely to do, as well as in schools, banks, hospitals, and the entire gamut of small businesses that always come to the rescue.
That is to say, Menéndez’ intention is to show that there are things that can be done without an act of Congress, and that it is not necessary to focus only on the border and allow that to eclipse other things that can be accomplished.
On top of that, it is a message to the White House that they do not have to focus only on punitive measures, but bring forward initiatives that offer some relief until something can be achieved at the legislative level. It’s clear that the administration has not proposed some positive executive actions for fear of being sued in court, but you have to at least try.
June 27 will be the ten year anniversary of the passage of S. 744 in the U.S. Senate. This bill offered a path to legalization and then citizenship to millions of undocumented people. It was approved in a vote of 68-32, with the support of the entire Democratic caucus and 14 Republicans in a Senate that was, at the time, majority-Democratic.
But, as it has been happening for years, the Republicans who controlled the House of Representatives let it die, because they were focused solely on obstructing any glint of a sensible solution and, like now, wanted to exploit the issue to keep their MAGA base motivated, since solving this issues would take away an electoral battering ram.
That is why Biden—and any Democrat who occupies the White House—should not play this game and must offer and execute measures that benefit immigrants, the country, and the economy. And of course, this is also politically beneficial. Although immigration is not the top priority for Latino voters, it does inform their support for candidates, whether out of empathy or because there are millions of families with mixed immigration statuses and, thus, the lack of immigration reform touches many lives.
Now that the end of Title 42 is approaching, and the White House fears political repercussions about what is happening at the border, the president should remember that he will never win the support of Republican extremists, no matter what. But in his zeal to show a hard line, he can alienate voters who, no matter what, have supported the Democratic Party, hoping for immigration reform.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.