In recent weeks, a combination of factors has raised doubts about President Biden’s commitment to following through on his immigration and refugee agenda. He started strong, but then seemed to pause as his administration struggled to manage an increase in unaccompanied minors at our southern border. The recent wobble on refugee numbers is a prime example of how progress has slowed.
Get ready for a reset and a jump start. The President is about to lean in, once again.
Marianna Sotomayor of the Washington Post reports that President Biden will lean into his immigration agenda during his speech to Congress:
“President Biden will recommit himself to overhauling the immigration system Wednesday during his first address to Congress, while signaling openness to Congress passing smaller parts of his agenda that have bipartisan support…
…Biden will also use his address to a joint session of Congress to push for more targeted legislation that would guarantee a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as “dreamers,” allow farmworkers already in the country to earn legal status and ease restrictions on visas for seasonal agricultural workers.”
With the White House gearing up, there are other factors that make us optimistic:
- Biden and the Democrats are focused on solutions supported by the majority of Americans. The public supports what Democrats are offering: 1) legislative breakthroughs that formally recognize deeply-rooted undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are; and 2) an America that welcomes immigrants and refugees from every corner of the globe through a safe, regulated and humane system. Trump’s cruelty, separation of families and attacks on Dreamers backfired. and Democrats now enjoy a solid pro-immigrant majority (see an immigration public opinion deep dive here).
- With Republicans playing politics, Democrats can blow past them and deliver victory. The Post piece highlights that, while the Biden administration hopes for a bipartisan breakthrough, Republicans are sharpening the edges of nativism as a wedge issue. As the Post piece notes: “As for Republicans, several strategists responsible for political messaging said that striking a deal on immigration may dampen efforts to pressure Biden on the migrant surge at the border, which Republicans have grabbed onto as a political issue.” Democrats should recognize that Republicans are operating in bad faith, and enact legislation this year through the next reconciliation package.
- The pro-immigrant movement is stepping up in a big way. As the Associated Press reports today, pro-immigrant groups are launching a new $50 million effort to promote a long overdue breakthrough on legislation that puts millions on pathways to citizenship. Care in Action and America’s Voice are running $1 million in ads hitting Republicans for politicizing kids at the border while Biden pursues humane solutions. Meanwhile, grassroots groups are gearing up and mobilizing across the country on May 1st (see more here).
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
The question of which way for Biden on immigration has been answered. After being singularly focused on dealing with the spike in unaccompanied minors at the border, Biden’s speech indicates the administration is poised to move forward with its ambitious pro-immigrant agenda.
There’s a great deal of talk about Biden’s first 100 days. That’s important. But for us, it’s the next 100 days that will be decisive.
We have an historic opportunity to pass legislation to create a roadmap to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. We have an historic opportunity to build a safe, orderly and humane system to protect refugees and admit immigrants, especially from the Northern Triangle countries in Central America. We have an historic opportunity to solve seemingly intractable challenges with policies that are fair, humane and functional.
On many issues, President Biden is going big and delivering change. It’s now clear he intends to do the same on immigration.
- Read Frank Sharry’s political memo to the Biden administration about the key lessons Team Biden should learn about immigration politics and policy.