Washington, DC – Over the holidays, three leading media observers of immigration policy and politics weighed in with assessments of the Biden administration’s first year, highlighting disillusionment with the administration’s failures to live up to their stated promises to turn the page from Trump’s cruelty and chaos on immigration. These observers and the sources they quote also highlight the missed opportunities and course corrections needed to address immigration politically as we move into a midterm election year where Republicans will run hard on xenophobia.
See below for key analysis and excerpts from CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tal Kopan, and the Boston Globe’s Marcela García followed by a reaction from Frank Sharry of America’s Voice.
At CNN, Priscilla Alvarez writes, “Biden administration results in more of the same Trump immigration policies”:
“Immigrant advocates — who expected significant changes after four years of curtailed immigration under then-President Donald Trump — have welcomed the unwinding of some Trump-era policies but also have increasingly voiced concern and disappointment to officials over the administration’s actions in numerous discussions.
‘The Biden campaign promised to welcome people with dignity, and instead we have returned to Trump policies,’ said Karen Tumlin, attorney, founder and director of Justice Action Center, in a call with reporters. ‘This is not the change millions sought when Biden was elected.’
…Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have pledged to continue to fight for immigration revisions — an effort that’s dogged Congress for decades … ‘They have to win on this because they’re in such a bad place with advocates and immigration broadly,’ a source close to the White House told CNN, referring to immigration restructuring. ‘Not delivering on this issue will be terrible for them politically.’”
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Tal Kopan writes: “One year in, Biden has been slow to unwind Trump immigration policies”:
“’What we don’t have is a White House that’s committed to moving forward on the stated Biden administration agenda in the way that the Trump White House was committed to moving forward on theirs, and as a result, we’re living in a world where a whole lot of those Trump policies are still around,’ said Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project with the American Civil Liberties Union.
…Instead of doubling down on the pro-immigration messaging Biden ran on, advocates say, the administration is playing into the right’s hands by focusing on border crossing numbers and promoting a deterrence strategy. With critical midterm elections less than a year away, advocates argue the administration is actually making the political dynamic more difficult by not resetting the narrative away from the unachievable goal of preventing migration to the border.”
And Marcela García reflects in her Boston Globe column, “The most neglected story of 2021? Immigration”:
“Our country’s vast and complex immigration system is incontrovertibly broken: Millions of residents live in the shadows without status and yet keep contributing to our economy — many of them as essential workers. Then there’s the trauma that immigrant parents and their children continue to suffer after being separated at the border. The federal government reportedly stopped negotiating a potential monetary settlement with the families, which would have helped repair the harm it so cruelly inflicted on them.
Does that sound like a flashback to Trump’s America circa 2018? Yes, but it’s also the status quo of immigration policy under President Biden. And it stands as one of the most neglected news stories of 2021.
…In treating immigration reform as an issue too hot to handle, Biden has normalized much of the Trump status quo. Biden and the Democrats face a reckoning next year for many things that they can’t control (e.g., the pandemic and inflation). Yet immigration remains both a policy and political opportunity, and Biden may discover that just not being Trump isn’t compelling enough to carry the day with immigrant voters.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
As the Biden administration’s moves into year two, the best way forward on policy is their best way forward politically: deliver on promises; establish a workable legal system for asylum seekers, refugees and workers; offer a clear alternative to Republicans’ xenophobia; and keep the multiracial electorate that delivered Democrats’ majority and rejected GOP nativism engaged.
Especially now with labor shortages, supply chain issues and a battle against inflation, immigration reform can be a potent tool. Democrats can win the debate if they lean in and define their popular solutions when it comes to immigration, immigrants and who we can be as Americans.