tags: Press Releases

Republican blackmail stalls all progress on national security and immigration

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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:

The Republican theater of treating Immigration as an electoral weapon continues to hold military aid to Ukraine hostage. The press reported that a meeting of senators from both parties with the Secretaries of State and Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff turned into a spectacle, where Republicans insisted on only talking about the border, yes, but the one between the United States and Mexico.

For a long time, the political class has been focused on the southern border as if it were the only border that exists for both nations, making it seem like all of the effort has the goal of highlighting negative aspects of this border zone in a stereotypical way, ignoring what is also occurring at the border with Canada. Blaming those who attempt to cross from Mexico to the United States for every ill is also part of the Republican staging, through which they have politicized the topic to exaggerated levels.

For example, The Hill reported that the Republicans brought up the issue of the border and asylum laws in the middle of a classified session about the importance of dispensing aid to Ukraine for U.S. national security.

“I asked Gen. [Charles Q.] Brown his best military advice. Is supporting Ukraine and Israel important enough that Democrats could at least consider reluctantly supporting some Southern border security? He wanted to talk about Ukraine,” said the Republican Senator from North Dakota, Kevin Cramer, about this exchange with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

But the Senate Democratic Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, asserted that the Republicans yelled at one of the generals and treated the military personnel in a disrespectful manner. It seems that the levels of political civility have gone downhill, to the detriment of legislative discussions that are limited to partisan attacks, without getting to the root of the matter and thinking, for once and for all, about resolving a largely-postponed domestic issue such as migration.

Previously the Republican Senator from Texas, John Cornyn, added gas to the fire after the collapse of bipartisan negotiations over the migration components demanded by his Republican colleagues, declaring “this is not a traditional negotiation, where we expect to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the border. This is a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental.”

So much said, in such few words: there never was a good faith to negotiate here. Basically, the Republicans want to change asylum laws and implement a series of cruel and excessive migration measures. And if they don’t get their way, there will be no aid to Ukraine. This is a cruel and ignominious blackmail that puts the lives of thousands of migrating families—who are right now beginning to face that other scourge of freezing temperatures that weaken anyone’s health, especially young people and the elderly—at risk.

It’s not only about making asylum more difficult for people who arrive fleeing precarious situations, by elevating the credible fear standard, but also contemplating the detention of (more) people seeking asylum and reviving nasty policies like Remain in Mexico. According to press reports, establishing internment centers on military bases; putting children in prolonged detention with their families; and implementing a system of mandatory detention for undocumented immigrants are also being discussed. Those are the central components of the bill H.R. 2, which was approved by the Republican-majority House of Representatives, but not considered by the majority-Democratic Senate.

But Republicans also want to limit the use of humanitarian entry or conditional freedom known as parole. In reality, what they are trying to do is erect as many hurdles as possible—not to resolve an issue like migration, but to complicate it even more, using it as a bargaining chip to satisfy their political interests to their advantage.

Many moons ago it would have been unthinkable for Republican hawks to deny military aid to allied countries. And in this case, according to Cornyn himself, there is a super-majority in favor of the help. But this is occurring because exploiting the southern border and using immigrants as scapegoats and electoral red meat is the north star for Republicans, even more so now that Donald Trump is seen as his party’s nominee for 2024.

There’s no doubt that insensitivity and a lack of empathy are a type of identity trait among Republicans, who seem to like that in every legislative negotiation that implicates the issue of immigration the coin be always up in the air, not caring about what happens to those who have risked everything in search of a change in their lives and those of their families—as has been the tradition of migration throughout the history of the United States.

But it certainly seems that Republican blackmail is stalling any advancement on immigration and national security.

To read the Spanish version of this column click here.