Originally Published in Politico
Olivia Beavers - March 15, 2021
With Susannah Luthi.
IMMIGRATION ON THE MIND: It is a big week for immigration. The House is poised to vote on two immigration bills this week, both narrower pieces of legislation while Democrats weigh how ambitious to go with President Joe Biden’s comprehensive immigration plan. All of this is unfolding amid a growing debate about how to address the surging numbers of migrant children and families being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.
1) The Dream and Promise Act would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have remained in the country illegally. This bill also provides a path to citizenship for the immigrants living in the U.S. with Temporary Protected Status. Seven House Republicans supported this legislation last time around.
2) The second bill, the Farm Modernization Workforce Act, aims to provide a path to citizenship for farm workers who are living in the country illegally. Thirty-four Republicans supported this legislation last Congress.
Both bills passed the House last session but weren’t taken up in the Senate. Still, despite Dems’ narrow majority, the bills as they currently stand are unlikely to get the 60 needed votes to pass in the upper chamber. (This has also fueled talkof including key immigration provisions to Dems’ next use of the reconciliation process.) Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is talking with Republicans about a narrow bipartisan approach on Dreamers.
Heading on down there: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is taking a delegation of a dozen GOP members to El Paso, Texas, today as part of an effort to highlight what they say is a crisis at the border that the Biden administration has failed to adequately address. Republicans claim Biden’s policies on immigration and the border have sparked the rise in migrants coming to the U.S. (And some Dem moderates are also calling on Biden to be more forceful in warning migrants not to come to the U.S.)
Currently, there are thousands of migrant children who showed up at the border unaccompanied being held in detention centers for longer than legally allowed, and government resources are feeling the strain amid the uptick. The Biden administration over the weekend directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide support at the border.
“If FEMA is involved, it’s a disaster by definition,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
Dems argue it is former President Donald Trump who not only failed to address problems at the border while in office but also left the Department of Homeland Security in shambles, which the Biden admin is now reckoning with as they seek to address the surge.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters yesterday: “I do know that the Biden administration is trying to fix the broken system that was left to them by the Trump administration." Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) put it more bluntly, telling your Huddle host recently that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is doing his best to rebuild the agency, but it is “as though he's building an airplane in mid-flight.”
Republicans are not buying what Dems are selling: “No one’s buying the ‘blame Trump for the border’ line from Democrats but I hope they keep trying to sell it,” Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) tells me. “Biden will have to act meaningfully on this growing crisis or all the talk will be border problems instead of Covid recovery.”
As NYT reports, there are other factors at play: Immigrant smugglers, known as coyotes, are falsely promising migrants that the border is open under Biden’s presidency, leading many to spend their life savings to try to come to the U.S. “Still, the migrants keep coming, and many officials believe the numbers could be bigger than those seen in recent years, after the pandemic and recent natural disasters in Central America wiped away livelihoods.”
Progressives’ patience is beginning to wear thin as the Biden administration grapples with how to restructure the Trump-era policies and adopt a more humane approach. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) told Playbook she and a group of other members will press the administration today to stop housing migrants in local prison and jail facilities, which have faced allegations of misconduct and abuse.
Additionally, House Democratic leaders originally aimed to bring Biden’s comprehensive package up for a vote this month, but an internal temperature check on the caucus showed they didn’t have enough support, per reports. A Dem aide tells me the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee expects a hearing on the U.S. Citizenship Act next month, where it could undergo some changes.