The changes and slashes continue during Joe Biden’s first 100 days sitting behind the Resolute desk. Next up on the chopping block is immigration reform, and the president’s plan that he says is “long overdue.” Many Republicans, however, are calling the proposal an all-out amnesty bill that is dangerous to the country’s security. The eight-year pathway to citizenship details a loosening of the migrant reins with little effort to improve border protection.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would grant green cards to farmworkers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). If passed, it would expand the green card lottery from 55,000 a year to 80,000 per year. The reform bill would also exempt children and spouses from the visa cap numbers while giving dependents green cards and eliminating per-country visa caps.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the plan a “massive proposal for blanket amnesty that would gut enforcement of American laws while creating huge new incentives for people to rush here illegally at the same time.” But Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) argued:
“To those who want to call this bill amnesty, I know there are some. Ten angels could come swearing from above that this is the best-tailored legislation, that it will secure our border, regularize our system and they would say, ‘No, it’s amnesty’ – they will never be satisfied.”
Will the reform bill get the support and votes needed to pass? It’s doubtful. Ten Republicans would have to sign off on it to get it through the chamber, and with little to no border security enhancements in place, that isn’t likely to happen. Menendez knows this too and blamed the inability to pass immigration reform on “fringe voices who have refused to accept the humanity and contributions of immigrants to our country and dismiss everything, no matter how significant it is in terms of national security, as amnesty.” He continued, placing the blame on others, including dubbing Donald Trump as a “manipulative madman”:
“From [former House Speaker] John Boehner, who blocked comprehensive immigration reform from reaching the House floor, white nationalists like Steve King and Jeff Sessions to a manipulative madman named Donald Trump, there will always be those who stand against immigrants, believing reform is somehow a political loss to Republicans and not a win for the United States of America.”
During a town hall meeting with CNN on Feb. 16, Biden spoke about his reform plan, saying, “The vast majority of the people, those 11 million undocumented, they’re not Hispanics; they’re people who came on a visa – who was able to buy a ticket to get in a plane, and didn’t go home.” He added, “They didn’t come across the Rio Grande swimming. Sorry, that’s the Irish in me.” The audience laughed and nothing but crickets from the media. Had this been a Trump statement … well, we could expect the reaction to have been somewhat different.
Biden’s facts were not so factual either. In a 2020 Pew Research Center report documenting where immigrants were migrating from in 2018, the largest number of all 11.2 million immigrants were from Mexico (25%). Next in line were 6% from China and India, 4% from the Philippines, and 3% from El Salvador.
According to the Daily Mail, the proposed bill includes “$4 billion spread over four years to try to boost economic development and tackle corruption in Latin American countries, to lessen pressure for migration to the U.S.” It would also “set up refugee processing in Central America, to try to prevent some of the immigrant caravans that have overwhelmed border security in recent years.”
With almost zero GOP support for Biden’s immigration reforms, it seems that without opting for conciliation – which Senator Menendez has already hinted he is open to – the efforts are doomed to failure. It is appearing more and more likely that Senate Democrats will rely on the swing vote of VP Kamala Harris as a threat to encourage Republicans to at least try and negotiate.
So much for the bipartisanship promised by then-candidate Joe Biden.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.