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Extreme demands will not solve the migration crisis

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BY: VANESSA CÁRDENAS and MURAD AWAWDEH

Winter is here and cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago are in a race against time to find the necessary funds to help thousands of immigrants and their families who will literally be left out in the cold this holiday season thanks to a group of extreme-right Republicans who are holding a legislative package hostage. This unnecessary and heartless gridlock stands to create not only chaos in New York, but also grief and despair.

In addition to blocking funds for cities such as New York, the same Republicans are also blocking foreign aid , hoping to ram through draconian, anti-immigrant proposals that would dismantle a pathway to legal immigration, including the asylum system. Just last week, Senate Republicans blocked the legislative package because it did not include their immigration demands.

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats cannot allow this to happen. Dismantling our asylum system will increase chaos in the immigration  process and exacerbate underlying issues. Immigration is a complex issue that demands a multi-pronged, bipartisan approach that factors in our nation’s economic needs and the need for a humane, orderly process that is beneficial to both the country and immigrants, as well as other considerations.

The money the Biden administration requested would fund personnel and build the infrastructure and organization required to make our asylum, and in turn, our immigration system work better. There is $1.4 billion specifically for FEMA that can be used to fund shelters and additional money for transportation and legal services that communities receiving migrants, as well as border communities, need now. 

NYC Mayor Adams’ scapegoating of asylum seekers for recent budget cuts, is not only insincere but incorrect. Disinformation has also made the situation worse by creating unnecessary divisions that only serve as a distraction from the larger issue at hand. The bottom line is that Mayor Adams’ management of the city has led us to this place, not new arrivals.  We need immigrants to help alleviate the worker shortage in our communities and nationwide.  Since the pandemic, many local businesses are in need of workers, and many of these migrants who are willing to work can’t because of their status. So why not help facilitate and expedite the process? 

Further, New York is home to approximately three million foreign-born residents and boasts a proud legacy of immigrants past and present who have contributed to the distinct cultural and economic fabric that makes New York one of the most iconic cities in the world. According to a report from the American Immigration Council, in the year 2021, immigrants had a spending power of approximately $138 billion and paid up to $61 billion in taxes.If we create safe and more accessible legal pathways for these newly arrived migrants, we can fulfill Lady Liberty’s promise of refuge and hope, while also injecting our local economy with ready-to-work labor– a classic win-win situation Republicans in Washington are determined to turn into a zero-sum game by delaying the funding bill. 

Congress needs to resolve this latest stalemate on immigration soon to ensure federal money can flow into the cities that need it right now like New York. However, this doesn’t mean Democrats should simply cave to Republican demands. Especially not when the proposed “solutions” are misguided, cruel and only exacerbate the chaos and disorder at the border and elsewhere. Building a wall and making it harder for immigrants to be granted asylum or receive parole does not resolve the real need for comprehensive immigration reform  nor will it prevent more migrants from coming. 

This is simply the latest effort to use migrants as scapegoats for political expediency and to bolster flagging poll numbers. These are human lives—mothers, fathers, children—fleeing violence and persecution, looking for safety and opportunity. .  We need real resolve from Congress to stop playing vicious games with our lives, but instead  invest in our collective futures—our immigrant workers and economy— instead of harmful partisan gridlock.