The Washington Post reports that President Joe Biden will make a push for an immigration overhaul during his first address to Congress on Wednesday night, and will call for passage of his “ambitious” immigration bill introduced this past February that puts millions of undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship. Under that legislation, certain immigrants, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and farmworkers, would be eligible for accelerated paths.
Biden will also reportedly “use his address to a joint session of Congress to push for more targeted legislation” that has already passed the House with support from Republicans, The Post said. The Dream and Promise Act, which protects DACA recipients and temporary status holders, passed with votes from nine Republicans. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed with support from 30 Republicans. Both bills are vastly popular among the public. Of course, the top Senate Republican is already throwing cold water on any movement.
NBC News reporter Sahil Kapur tweeted that the Senate Republican minority leader dusted off the same old talking point that Republicans have used for years now as an excuse to block progress on humane legislation: we need to secure the border first. “Mitch McConnell, asked if he favors a standalone bill to protect Dreamers: ‘Everybody is sympathetic with the DACA issue,’ he says, but he ‘can't imagine that we would take up an immigration bill … without insistence on our part that we address the obvious crisis at the border,’” Kapur tweeted.
“Same argument for 15 yrs,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry responded on Twitter. “Starting to suspect he and his GOP colleagues are not operating in good faith!” He urged the president to work to pass permanent relief without Republicans. “Biden wants to legalize millions,” he continued. “McConnell and McCarthy want to use immigration as a wedge issue. Bipartisanship? Fuggedaboutit. Include in infrastructure bill thru reconciliation? Let’s do it.”
A number of bicameral legislators have already pressed Biden to pass legislation through reconciliation, noting that “Speaker Pelosi has already indicated her support for including immigration legislation in legislative packages advanced through budget reconciliation given the clear ‘case about the budget implications of immigration.’”
Republicans will likely claim they really are trying to find solutions, and point to a bill from Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema targeting the border and that does nothing to address the 11 million undocumented overall. Plus, history has already told us that when Cornyn’s involved in immigration talks in particular, it is not a serious effort. Read about the “Cornyn con” to find out why.
But back to the president. “To make his sell, especially to skeptical Republicans, Biden will outline how immigrants play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and competitive economy, the official said,” The Post continued. A new report this week from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Joint Economic Committee (JEC) continued to shine an important light not only on how immigrants and their entrepreneurial spirit have long been key drivers in our economy, but how they’ll also play critical roles in the nation's economic recovery amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Historically, immigrants’ employment rates rebound more quickly from recessions, making them integral to a speedy recovery as their earnings fuel spending and further growth,” that report said. “In the Great Recession, foreign-born workers were hard hit—losing over a million jobs. However, within a year, foreign-born worker employment returned to pre-recession levels relative to native-born workers.”
An immigration overhaul would in fact be an economic boon not just to immigrant families, but all families everywhere. “Immigration reform would increase U.S. GDP by at least 0.84 percent,” the American Immigration Council said in 2010. “This would translate into at least a $1.5 trillion cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years, which includes approximately $1.2 trillion in consumption and $256 billion in investment.” But even more important than that, an immigration overhaul would bring permanent relief to millions of undocumented immigrants. It’s long overdue. They need certainty. The time is now.