Oh No Not An Ambitious Biden Immigration Plan, What Will The Good-Faith Welcoming GOP Say?
The White House and congressional Democrats will roll out the Biden administration's ambitious immigration plan today; it's aimed at remaking US immigration policy in a more humane direction, complete with a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US. CBS News got its hands on a 66-page summary of the proposed legislation, and it has some very good stuff in it.
For starters, there's the pathway to legal status and then citizenship, or more accurately, pathways, depending on immigrants' current status. The Biden plan would
automatically make farmworkers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children eligible for green cards. After three years, they could apply to become U.S. citizens.
All other eligible unauthorized immigrants would be able to request temporary deportation relief and work permits while being placed on an eight-year pathway towards U.S. citizenship.
For both tracks, applicants would need to pass a background check, including a check to make sure they don't threaten "national security," and they'd need to pay an application fee, as well as any back taxes.
This is really freaking big, the first attempt at comprehensive immigration reform since 2013, when the Senate passed a reform bill and then John Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote in the House, even though there were enough votes to pass it. Congress hasn't managed to actually pass any substantial immigration legislation since 1986, when Ronald Reagan signed a reform bill that granted amnesty to some three million undocumented people — most of whom thrived, got better jobs, and joined the rest of America in grumbling about taxes.
To make clear this deal isn't open to future border-crossers, the bill specifies that applicants must prove they arrived in the US prior to January 1, 2021, although it would give the Homeland Security secretary the option of allowing back people deported under Trump, as long as they can prove they lived in the US for three years before getting deported.
To emphasize that the USA is rejecting the Trump attitudes toward immigrants, the bill, aka the "U.S. Citizenship Act," will be introduced by two children of immigrants, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-California), whose parents immigrated from Mexico, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), who's the son of Cuban immigrants.
Beyond the pathways to legal status, the bill would also remove some deportation rules put in place by Bill Clinton, scrapping provisions that prevent people from re-entering the US for three or 10 years following a deportation. It would also restrict presidents from enacting broad bans on certain classes of immigrant, and would require immigration laws to refer to "noncitizens" instead of "aliens," as if immigrants were actually human.
Also too, CBS notes, the bill would be friendlier to legal immigrants, too:
The plan would raise the current per-country caps for family and employment-based immigrant visas and reassign unused visas. It would render spouses and children of green card holders "immediate family members," exempting them from the per-country caps.
The bill would increase the annual allocation of employment-based visas from 140,000 to 170,000, as well as the yearly ceiling for diversity visas from 55,000 to 80,000. An additional 10,000 visas would be reserved for a pilot program designed for immigrants who will contribute to the economic development of local communities.
On top of that, the bill would provide $1 billion a year for the next three years that the Biden administration can use to promote stability, jobs, and anti-corruption measures in Central American countries, with the aim of reducing the reasons migrants leave in the first place. It would also set up processing centers in those countries where people could apply for refugee status.
In terms of immigration enforcement, the bill would direct Homeland Security to implement "smart" border security and upgrade the infrastructure at ports of entry, both to deter smuggling and to accommodate asylum seekers. DHS will also be "required to issue new guidelines governing the care and processing of migrant children."
Hell of a proposal, like we say! It must be pretty good, since Marco Rubio is already complaining that the proposal offers a "blanket amnesty," which is pretty rich coming from him. Rubio was one of the authors of the 2013 immigration reform, but after Republicans decided they absolutely hate immigration (or only "illegal" immigration, by which they mean "all immigration"), he decided his own bill was also a terrible horrible "amnesty" proposal.
It's not clear, though, that Biden will actually be able to get any Republicans to support the proposal, especially in the Senate. Politico helpfully offers a Dems In Disarray article today, claiming that Dems are worried the Biden proposal will mean huge losses in the midterms, a view advanced by exactly one (1) Democratic House member from Texas, Vicente Gonzales, who frets, "If we go off the rails, it's going to be bad for us. [...] Biden is going to be dealing with a minority in Congress if he continues down some of these paths."
Others interviewed for the article, like Rep. Henry Cuellar, also from Texas, were concerned that Dems need to "be careful that we don't give the impression that we have open borders," which is pretty much a vain hope, considering that Republicans yell "open borders" at anything Democrats support, including the proposition that taking migrants' children away from their parents is a bad idea.
The Politico piece also notes that a recent Morning Consult poll found that immigration-related issues " tended to be the least popular" of Biden's proposed policies, but as Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, pointed out on Twitter, that doesn't mean people strongly oppose Biden's immigration proposals. It's just that at the moment, immigration isn't up at the top of their concerns like the pandemic and the economy.
Of the Biden immigration policies listed in the survey, only one, increasing the number of refugees admitted to the US, actually had more opposition than support, with 39 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed (so of course, Morning Consult led with that one). But proposals like reuniting all kids separated from their parents, and reconsidering Trump immigration policies generally, polled better than quite a few other measures -- all of which people also generally supported. But not as much as stimulus checks, so that's a disaster?
Have a partial screenshot!
Image: Morning Consult poll
As Reichlin-Melnick also noted, "Legalization for all 11 million is more popular than recreational weed!" So maybe instead of pursuing policy based on what extreme-Right Trumpers will say, how about we actually pursue meaningful reform this time?
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.