tags: Press Releases

Enough! Stop using immigrants in political games

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week: 

Now that a group of Republican and Democratic senators are considering undermining asylum laws, exactly as Donald Trump had planned, in exchange for Republican support for the funds President Joe Biden requested for Ukraine, it’s revealed yet again that for many politicians, immigrants are the “low-hanging fruit” when things get complicated.  

It’s a type of recurring political fear, on the one hand, and a tired formula for “negotiating” with a rival, on the other, in which the topic of immigration is clearly not essential to the Democratic Senators participating, until they want to show a pro-immigrant image that serves to generate sympathy among vulnerable groups in society.

Because even if reason ultimately materializes, and press reports do not come to pass, the mere fact that a group of Democrats is collaborating with Republicans to impose measures they criticized when Trump implemented them does not contribute to improving their image among a group of the Hispanic electorate that has been frustrated for decades with the handling given to this topic, and the many unfulfilled promises. 

Without straying too far, one example of that is the tension that has been generated between migrants who have spent years waiting for a solution to their immigration status, while people who arrived recently to seek asylum have been privileged with potential access to work permits and other opportunities. It was obvious that this was going to happen, the understanding that the lives of millions who were already in this country, contributing in many ways to the economic strength of the United States, would be toyed with, as they were played with during the worst pandemic that this country, and the world, have suffered in recent history.

Sadly, what occurred during previous Democratic administrations—those of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, to name two—where immigrants paid in spades for the decision to appease Republicans in exchange for nothing, has been revived. Even lawful residents were attacked. But let’s stay focused.

Note that these are Republican proposals, and Democrats seem not to have pressed for anything that would benefit undocumented immigrants who have already established themselves here. In fact, the press reported that not even the Dreamers would receive relief. And that chapter certainly is ironic, since the approximately 800,000 people who benefitted from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have been a type of political weather vein in the “who’s up/who’s down” politics of a country that this group recognizes as home. But they have always been left behind, negotiation after negotiation, without the legal recognition that they already deserve. At any rate, they have had the permanent anxiety of being expelled from the home that they have constructed with their own dreams, hard work, studies, and hopes.

Another of this situation’s many ironies is that it’s about policies that Trump proposed, which proved to be a disaster and worsened the pressure at the border, not to mention the damage done at the humanitarian level. 

However, as electoral winds blow, the Democrats commit the same error as always: ceding to Republican pressure at immigrants’ expense, without obtaining anything for this essential segment of the population. Because, in this case, yes Ukraine will be financed in the fight against the Russian invasion, but immigrants would get nothing.

Doing Republicans’ dirty work will not earn Democrats support from those Republicans, nor Republican voters, and it will only prove, yet again, that when pressured, immigrants are “disposable” to Democrats. This time they must put the humanitarian aspect that is urgently crying out for a solution first, since this is about millions of human lives who have done nothing other than choose, like millions of others in the past, a better way of life. During these negotiations, will they keep in mind the motto that we all have symbolically tattooed on our foreheads: “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free?” 

Unfortunately, if these reports come to pass we will continue on without breaking the vicious cycle on immigration issues.

To read the Spanish version of this column click here.