President Joe Biden has decided to take an early grab on what’s become a new third rail of American politics: “comprehensive immigration reform.” His rush headlong into this political thicket is already causing consternation on both sides of the political aisle.
Republicans have had long concerns that “comprehensive reform” meant amnesty without a crackdown on border control. But now, in the era of COVID-19, House Republican Oversight Committee Members are sounding the alarm about the implications to public health if Biden’s plan moves forward.
The Republican lawmakers warned that the number of families and unaccompanied children will “soon overwhelm border facilities in the middle of a global pandemic, forcing CBP officials to resort to widespread catch and release of unlawfully present individuals and families into the interior of the country.”
“The increase in illegal immigration at the southern border presents a risk not only to Border Patrol agents apprehending migrants who illegally cross the border, but also to those communities into which those individuals will relocate — likely leading to widespread COVID-19 infection and fatalities.”
“The Biden administration’s policies limiting immigration enforcement and weakening border security, coupled with its proposal to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, are signaling to the world that our immigration laws can be violated with little, if any, consequence,” Ranking Member James Comer and 18 Oversight Committee members wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“We are particularly concerned that the Biden administration’s actions could soon lead to a health crisis at the border, and surrounding communities, causing widespread COVID-19 infections and fatalities,” they say.
Twelve Senate Republicans have weighed in as well, urging Biden to reassess his “reckless” immigration policy changes.
We write regarding your administration’s efforts to severely weaken border security and immigration controls in the midst of an historic pandemic. Your re-implementation of the failed Obama-era policy of “catch-and-release,” your planned rescission of international agreements like the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program), and your attempts to dismantle immigration enforcement and halt deportations have predictably led to a surge of migration to our southern border. This endangers our economic recovery, weakens public safety, and imperils our nation’s public health.
As we write this letter, main streets across America are shuttered, millions of parents can’t go to work, and children are kept from school. In a nation where everything seems closed, our border is now open. In violation of the law and common sense, your administration is allowing large numbers of unvetted and likely unvaccinated illegal aliens to enter our nation.
Over on the other side of the political aisle, some Democrats who represent U.S.-Mexico border states have other reasons to be concerned: election politics.
With the White House and Congress set to release a broad immigration reform bill Thursday, some lawmakers fear the party’s messaging and policy proposals are too much, too soon.
“The way we’re doing it right now is catastrophic and is a recipe for disaster in the middle of a pandemic,” said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, one of the three Texas Democrats who represents part of the border most affected by spikes in migrant arrests and arrivals.
“Our party should be concerned. If we go off the rails, it’s going to be bad for us,” Gonzalez said. “Biden is going to be dealing with a minority in Congress if he continues down some of these paths.”
The Biden White House may soon realize that there are broader concerns across the country about his rolling back of Trump-era crackdowns on illegal immigration.
President Joe Biden’s first weeks in office have been marked by a customary series of executive actions that voters have largely embraced, with one notable exception: last week’s move to greatly expand the number of refugees allowed into the country.
A new Morning Consult/Politico survey shows 48 percent of voters oppose Biden’s plan to allow as many as 125,000 refugees to seek safe haven in the United States during the upcoming fiscal year — a historic high that represents a whiplash change from the historically low 15,000-person limit for the current fiscal year — and fewer than 2 in 5 voters support it.
That makes the Feb. 4 order the least popular of 28 executive actions tracked by Morning Consult since Inauguration Day by a wide margin.
As health care reform was for Barack Obama, it seems clear immigration reform is about to become the unpopular cross Joe Biden has chosen to bear in his first year as president.