Message to the Biden Administration: Put Immigration Reform on the Front Burner
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team
We Need Immigration Policy Reform Now!
No way to sugar-coat it: amid the Biden administration’s first-year accomplishments, immigration reform was conspicuously absent. Some attempts to roll back the previous administration’s destructive policies by executive order were reinstated by the courts. Measures that passed the House have been stymied in the 50-50 Senate. Attempts to include immigration reform measures in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill (eliminating the need for 10 Republican votes) have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Senate parliamentarian. Definitive legislative solutions are not forthcoming in the near future.
A surge of migrants at the southern border has escalated tension and resulted in draconian detention and deportation measures…again. Detention facilities remain crowded, unsanitary, and dangerous. Efforts to reverse the “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers have been complicated by adverse court rulings. Prior restrictions on legal immigration have not been relaxed enough to help ease ongoing labor shortages. The racist culture pervading Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol remain intact. Deportations have actually increased from the Trump years.
Still, some small gains have been made, and progressives are poised to increase our influence in the midterm elections—if we can hold our majorities in the House and the Senate—a necessary prerequisite for instituting real legislative change in immigration policy.
On his first day in office, President Biden began the process of unwinding the disastrous border wall project. Unfortunately, contracts had been signed and hundreds of millions spent on materials and equipment that are now abandoned and rusting in the desert. Meanwhile, portions of the hastily constructed wall are badly deteriorating, in some cases even being pilfered for scrap resale.
Biden officials have continued efforts to reunite families separated under the Trump administration, but poor record-keeping and the passage of time have limited success. The scope of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been widened, and time limits have been extended. Now, some 700,000 immigrants from 12 countries are eligible for TPS. Redistricting has brought increased representation for Latino populations.
We know that Democratic candidates face strong headwinds in the upcoming midterm elections. Activists must continue to demand action on immigration policy reform both from elected officials and from candidates aspiring to office.
So, how can you help? Become a Congressional Office Liaison to advocate for progressive policies. Support PDA’s endorsed progressive candidates for the House and the Senate. Donate what you can afford to PDA’s continuing projects, and make it monthly if you can. We need all hands on deck to move immigration reform policy forward now and in the foreseeable future.