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Potential immigration deal involving White House angers progressive and Latino advocates

WASHINGTON — Immigration advocates and Democrats are frustrated that the Biden administration is negotiating an immigration deal with U.S. Senate Republicans that could resurrect a pandemic-era tool used by the Trump administration to expel millions of migrants.

The consideration of a statutory authority similar to Title 42 has angered progressive and Latino lawmakers, who have criticized President Joe Biden for seeming to walk back his campaign promises to protect asylum laws and instead leaning into far-right immigration policies. The immigration changes are under discussion as part of a package that would tie them to military aid for Ukraine and Israel.

“How could we, as the United States of America, advocate for the creation of anything like this?” New Mexico’s Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján said of the immigration proposals in the Senate.

Those lawmakers and immigration advocates warned that the move could alienate young and Latino voters in next year’s presidential election.

Beatriz Lopez, the deputy director of the progressive immigration advocacy group Immigration Hub, said in a statement that Trump-era immigration policies are “not popular, nor will they help Democrats win in 2024.”

“If Democrats accept this deal, without affirmative relief for settled immigrants working in America, Democrats will be fronting an enforcement-only agenda advanced for decades by right-wing Republicans that will depress support and enthusiasm among critical voters,” Lopez said.

A recent survey conducted by UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota found that four out of five issues important to Hispanic voters were related to the economy. UnidosUS is a Latino civil rights and advocacy group and Mi Familia Vota works to build Latino political power through civic engagement.

The survey those groups worked on found that while immigration was not in the top five priority issues, it still ranked high.

Some of those immigration policy issues those eligible voters supported included a path to citizenship for undocumented people who have lived in the U.S. for a lengthy period and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people brought into the country as children, known as Dreamers.

The lowest level of support was for mass deportations or construction of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the survey.

The survey sampled more than 3,000 eligible Latino votes from Nov 2 – 13.

Héctor Sánchez Barba, the executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota, said in a statement that in 2024, about 22% of Latinos could be voting in their first presidential election.

“These new voters are an incredible opportunity to organize and build Latino political power,”  Sánchez Barba said.

Talks extend over the weekend

The friction comes as the White House is in ongoing negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators — Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, Oklahoma Republican James Lankford and Arizona independent Kyrsten Sinema — to unlock billions in emergency funding for Ukraine, Israel Taiwan and U.S. border security.

Representing the Biden administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is also part of those talks.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer decided to keep the Senate in next week to give negotiators the weekend to strike a deal. But with the House gone on a three-week break for the holidays, any legislative movement won’t be possible until the new year.

While there is currently no deal or framework, some of those proposals include raising the bar for migrants to claim asylum by making changes to the “credible fear” standard. Democrats like Sen. Alex Padilla of California argue that would “gut our asylum law.”

Padilla, who chairs a Senate panel on immigration, citizenship and border security, said the idea of a statutory authority to remove migrants is “Title 42 on steroids.”

“A return to Trump-era policies is not the fix,” he said. “In fact, it will make the problem worse.”

Title 42 was a public health policy used to expel millions of migrants at the border and prevent them from claiming asylum during a health emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic. It was initially put in place by the Trump administration and continued through the Biden administration under federal court orders, but the measure sunset in May after the national public health emergency ended. More than 2.5 million migrants were expelled under the policy.

‘Bipartisan compromise’ sought

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday during the White House press briefing declined to detail the immigration policy changes the Biden administration and Senate are negotiating.

“In order to get this done, there has to be a bipartisan compromise,” she said. “We have to find a bipartisan compromise.”

There are billions for border security in Senate Democrats’ supplemental spending package. That includes $1.42 billion for staff hires for immigration judges, such as clerks, attorneys and interpreters, and $5.31 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expand border security, such as fentanyl detection, among other provisions.

But Senate Republicans argue that funding alone isn’t enough and want immigration policy changes.

The head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, said that it would be a bad deal for the White House to trade “permanent policy changes” for something short term like the emergency supplemental.

“It won’t fix the situation at the border,” she said. “People come to the border because we no longer have a functioning immigration system that allows people many different legal pathways to match our country’s real needs, nor have we addressed the root causes of the countries that send people here,” she said.

Young voters

Organizations that focus on engaging with young voters also warned that new immigration restrictions would be unpopular with that demographic.

The president of NextGen America, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, said in a statement that she was concerned that the White House is signaling its support for those immigration policies.

“Young voters overwhelmingly support a humane immigration process and demand a pathway to citizenship, not detention and deportation,” Tzintzún Ramirez said. “We believe in a future that protects immigrants and their families, and we are advocating for policies that welcome immigrants and respect their rights.”

NextGen America is a national organization that mobilizes young people to vote and advocates for voter registration.

The vice president of communications for NextGen America, Antonio Arellano, said that next year, 41 million new GenZ voters would be eligible to vote. Generation Z consists of people born between 1996 and 2010 and they are more racially and ethically diverse than any previous generation.   

These new voters hold diverse identities and experiences that shape their political attitudes, and they are paying attention,” Arellano said. “By following through on this deal, Democratic leaders will jeopardize the support of these young voters across the country, who believe immigrants deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Andrea Carcamo, the policy director with Freedom for Immigrants, said in a statement that a reinstating of a policy like Title 42 would result in grave humanitarian consequences” and would “contribute to more confusion and chaos at the border.”

Freedom for Immigrants is a group that is dedicated to abolishing immigration detention centers and focuses on community-based alternatives to detention.

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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F12%2F18%2Fpotential-immigration-deal-involving-white-house-angers-progressive-and-latino-advocates%2F by Ariana Figueroa

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