Events on Capitol Hill and the Southwest border are unfolding at a dizzying pace. The outcome of those developments will have long-lasting and irreversible effects.
At the center of the chaos is immigration, the tumultuous topic that has embroiled Congress since the Immigration Reform and Control Act that President Reagan signed into law in 1986.
During the budget resolution debate that will pave the way for a mid-March final vote on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Republicans filed a staggering 900 amendments. Two Republican senators proposed blocking stimulus checks from being paid out to unlawfully present immigrants. Surprisingly, given the openly hostile relationship between the two parties, eight Democrats voted with Republicans.
Nearly 16 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, and millions more have stopped looking for work. Last December, the labor force participation rate hit 61.5 percent, its lowest level in years. Americans’ pain and suffering should be the first consideration of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, later introduced an amendment that removed the Republicans’ proposal.
Long story short, as it currently stands, illegal immigrants will receive $1,400 checks.
Another amendment, this one introduced by Texas Republican Ted Cruz, also portended bad news for unemployed and underemployed Americans. Cruz proposed that Congress restrict employment-based visas until the economy recovered from the coronavirus-induced stagnation. Nevertheless, unsurprisingly but still disappointingly, Congress, including eight Republicans, rejected Cruz’s proposal – one that is again, like blocking stimulus checks for illegal immigrants, a rational measure. During an average year, about 700,000 foreign national guestworkers enter the U.S. to work in a wide range of low- to high-skilled jobs.
Here’s an interesting sidenote on the Senate Republicans who advocate for easy corporate access to cheap labor. Of the eight, five, including Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), former Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska), were re-elected in 2020, and won’t have to face voters for six years. A sixth, Pat Toomey (Pa.), announced his retirement in October.
Meanwhile, down on the border, conditions are rapidly deteriorating. In his Feb. 9 story, Washington Times reporter Stephen Dinan wrote that the immigration influx, particularly among children, has reached such proportions that Texas’ Customs and Border Protection has opened a new tent facility to process them. Although the Biden administration’s official explanation for the border surge is a combination of migrants fleeing the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters in their home countries, the asylum seekers have confided in immigration officials that Biden’s immigration stance, more welcoming than the previous administration, encouraged their journey.
Texas isn’t the only state struggling to accommodate the migrant rush. Arizona’s Pinal County Chief Deputy Sheriff Matthew Thomas said that dating back to late 2020, and in anticipation of Biden’s “hands-off” attitude toward illegal immigration that includes stopping border wall construction and restoring catch-and-release, human trafficking and drug smuggling cartels have ramped up their operations. Thomas stressed that once the word got out that Biden had ordered wall construction ended, immigrants headed toward the unfinished and still wide-open sections, and proceeded northbound.
The deputy sheriff warned Americans that fewer agents and the lack of federal immigration law enforcement under Biden’s open borders policy is more than a local Arizona problem. Pima County is “a spot they [migrants] get through to get to their final destination, and they’re being sent all over the country.”
Studying Biden’s immigration-related executive orders and memorandums, none can be identified as helping Americans get through the pandemic to get back on their feet toward full employment. Biden’s orders aim to increase refugee resettlement, ease asylum guidelines, end public charge regulations, undo interior immigration enforcement and halt border wall construction. In Biden’s package of orders, U.S. citizens lose. And should Biden prevail in his quest for an amnesty for millions that would include lifetime valid work permission, American losses become more acute.
Judging by the way the Biden administration is ruling after merely a month in office, the members seem unaware that they have only the narrowest margin in Congress, and that the GOP is lurking in 2022’s tall grass.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.