What if you were told on the night Joe Biden won the White House that not only would noted white supremacist Stephen Miller continue to control the nation’s asylum system, which remains closed off to most vulnerable people today, but that he would have help from some Senate Democrats? Because that’s the situation we’re facing at this very moment.
Senate Republicans are holding additional COVID-19 funding hostage, saying that the only way they’ll allow it to go forward is if Senate Democrats allow a vote on an amendment that will let Miller’s anti-asylum Title 42 policy to continue indefinitely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to end the anti-asylum order on May 23.
The only response to this hostage situation should be a middle finger. But Democratic senators including Dick Durbin say they may cave to Republicans and offer the vote. The result could be Senate Republicans leading an end to U.S. asylum law, with an assist from Senate Democrats.
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Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman of The Washington Post say the amendment would likely be based on the bill put forward by Senate Republican James Lankford last month that includes support from five Senate Democrats: Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Mark Kelly, Maggie Hassan, and Jon Tester. While Sen. Raphael Warnock is not a co-sponsor, he has said he does not support ending use of Miller’s policy. Sinema’s name here is not surprising considering she has an anti-refugee vote under her belt already.
But will the amendment pass? It’s unclear if it will need 50 votes to pass, or 60 votes to pass (it should be 60—think of all the pro-immigrant, abortion rights, climate change, and gun violence bills that we can’t get passed because of the Jim Crow filibuster). But it’s more than clear that enough Senate Democrats seem to be scared by the GOP’s anti-immigrant theatrics that there’s reason to worry.
Sargent and Waldman further note that Democrats may be caving when a judge from the GOP’s anti-immigrant judicial pipeline is very likely to block Title 42’s end date anyway. In fact, it would be a shock if a right-wing judge didn’t halt the policy. “But that doesn’t appear to be enough” for some Democrats, they write. “All indications are that they also want to vote to codify this in law, in the belief that it will insulate them from GOP attacks in the midterms.”
The bill submitted by Lankford, Sinema, and Manchin “prevents the administration from ending the Title 42 emergency authority until at least 60 days after ending the COVID-19 national emergency declaration,” Lankford’s office said. “After the end of the national emergency, the Department of Homeland Security would have thirty days to submit to Congress a plan to address the impacts of the post-Title 42 migrant influx.”
But does anyone really believe that Republicans will restore the U.S. asylum system at that time? That they’ll actually admit a positive development at the border that might just benefit a Democratic administration? It might just interfere with their trademark anti-immigrant electoral messaging. Recall that a supposedly pro-immigrant bill previously offered by a House Republican purports “a dignified solution to immigrants currently living in the US,” when in reality it sets a ridiculous standard that assures that legal status can never be reached.
The GOP’s hostage-taking of pandemic funding is obscene considering that the Biden administration has warned of potentially as many as 100 million infections this winter. In recent days, our nation saw its millionth COVID-related death. But to now say that our nation has to close off our asylum system indefinitely to get those additional funds, and some Senate Democrats seemingly ready to go along with that plan, is unimaginable. But here we are.
“Republicans want to end asylum as we know it,” America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry told The Washington Post. “The Lankford-Sinema bill is the Republican vehicle to do this. And moderate Democrats are playing along. They don’t have to.” Please call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to oppose all efforts to continue Stephen Miller’s Title 42 policy.
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