President Biden devoted all 11 sentences of his State of the Union address on Tuesday to immigration and border security, noting accomplishments and urging Congress to complete delayed immigration reform.
“Let’s get it done once and for all,” he said.
Later in the day, activists cautioned the administration and Democrats that if they do not follow through on campaign promises to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants who have been in the nation for many years, they will face a backlash at the polls.
In his first week in office, Biden proposed broad immigration reforms, but despite his party having a majority in the House and the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, they have yet to become law. The president and Democrats have proposed alternative routes to legalize via budget bills, but the Senate parliamentarian has ruled them impossible.
Republicans got in on the border security/immigration act as well, criticizing Biden for causing an unprecedented rise in unlawful migration while enabling record amounts of the deadly narcotic fentanyl to enter the country. However, Biden insists that his government is working to secure the southern border.
“At our border, we’ve installed new technology like cutting-edge scanners to better detect drug smuggling. We’ve set up patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers,” he said.
The president also emphasized efforts to welcome refugees escaping persecution in their own countries to this country. Biden also mentioned giving a road to citizenship for “Dreamers,” or foreign-born persons who were brought to the United States as minors and have completed the American education system.
“Congress can provide a pathway to citizenship for ‘Dreamers,’ those on temporary status, farmworkers, and essential workers. Revise our laws so businesses have the workers they need, and families don’t wait decades to reunite,” the president said. “It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s the economically smart thing to do. That’s why immigration reform is supported by everyone from labour unions to religious leaders to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
The Build Back Better Act, which has been halted in the Senate owing to opposition from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is the most recent incarnation of immigration reform. It provides temporary status to those who have been in the country for more than five years. In his speech on Tuesday, the president made no mention of how the impasse will be resolved. His words elicited a mixed response at first.
“With deportations and expulsions continuing to climb, there’s no hiding the racial injustice the Biden administration continues to carry out against Black, brown and immigrant communities every single day,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream.
“Just tonight, President Biden called for increased surveillance along the U.S-Mexico border, despite overwhelming evidence and testimonies from our communities that prove time and again the harmful, deadly effects of surveillance technology that perpetuates violence…”
President Biden has stated unequivocally that Congress must act on immigration reform this year, and the American people concur, according to Ali Noorani, president, and CEO of the National Immigration Forum.
Republicans and Democrats should collaborate to advance measures that ensure secure, orderly, and humane border processes while also protecting Dreamers, farm labourers, and temporary protected status recipients.
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