Washington DC – A few thousand migrants, most of whom are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America and the Caribbean, departing from southern Mexico last month in hopes of reaching the United States.
There is a strong possibility that Mexican authorities will block the group – which is travel on foot – coming from near the US-Mexico border, according to the terms of an agreement between the two countries to stop irregular migration to the US.
But if the migrants do reach the border, the US will probably drive most of them out. Title 42, a Trump-era policy that provides for immediate removal and that has American legal groups, progressive leaders and the United Nations blown as a violation of international law.
President Joe Biden has put the measure in place despite the criticism, as its administration struggles to respond to a 20-year high in the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border.
This is not the first time the country has faced challenges at the border, and it is unlikely to be the last, as immigration advocates say. crisis in Central and South American countries will continue to push thousands to seek protection in the US.
Those advocates are now appealing to U.S. lawmakers, bitterly divided along biased lines on the issue, to pass legislation in Congress to reform the country’s immigration system, arguing that it is the only way to achieve effective and humanitarian response.
“Immigration in this country is about politics, not politics,” said Melanie Nezer, senior vice president of public affairs at HIAS, a U.S. refugee resettlement agency. “This is an intensely politicized issue, which makes it almost impossible to make good policy.
“The laws need to change,” she told Al Jazeera. “Congress must act; anything the president does is temporarily without Congress, ”he added, adding that Congress should be a partner in protecting people in need.
Immigration advocates say the last time Congress made drastic changes to the U.S. immigration system was in 1986 under former President Ronald Reagan.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was considered a landmark immigration bill, made it a criminal offense for employers to hire undocumented migrants and granted legal status to nearly three million undocumented migrants who were in the U.S. before 1982.
The bill also included critical changes to policing at the U.S. southern border, increasing funding for additional security technology, and tightening the number of border patrol agents. The measures, lawmakers at the time argued, would prevent people from crossing without permits.
“It was the first time in recent history that the US embraced the idea that if we deployed military force on our border, we would stop our people from even trying to cross the US border,” said Oscar Chacon, co-founder and CEO of Alianza , said. Americas, a network of Latin American and Caribbean immigrant organizations.
“Obviously it did not work because it completely ignores why people are fleeing and therefore it was a complete failure and a terrible waste of public resources,” Chacon told Al Jazeera.
This fiscal year, U.S. authorities detained 1.7 million migrants trying to cross the border – an everyday highlight – while the population of undocumented migrants living in the US has risen to an estimated 11 million people.
Trump’s lasting legacy
Absent by Congress, successive U.S. administrations instituted immigration policies through executive orders and memos from the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the measures, experts say, are focused on increased policing.
The lack of action by Congress was critical when former President Donald Trump, a Republican who made restricting immigration to the U.S. one of his main goals, took office.
As of 2016, Trump has signed executive orders that prohibit the entry of citizens of several Muslim-majority countries in the USA, forced asylum seekers to wag in mexico for their U.S. immigration trials, and increased deportations of undocumented migrants, among other measures. He also made builds a wall with Mexico a feature of his immigration policy.
Amid continuing controversy over immigration to Congress, Biden reversed several of Trump’s policies by issuing his own executive orders after taking office in January.
But Trump’s tough stance on immigration has entrenched himself in the Republican Party, say political analysts – and with Congress currently divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, the prospect of meaningful immigration reform seems slim.
Experts say the last time Congress voted on comprehensive immigration reform legislation was in 2013 when the Senate passed a bill backed by former President Barack Obama with 68 votes in favor – including 14 Republicans – and 32 against it. House Republicans, however, refused to consider the bill, which would have made it possible for many undocumented immigrants to get on a path to citizenship.
Senate Republicans have since increasingly opposed Democratic attempts to pass revisions to U.S. immigration laws.
Recent surveys also show that Americans are divided along party lines when it comes to immigration. Seventy-five percent of Democrats compared to 41 percent of Republicans said they support the admission of Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in the U.S., an NPR / Ipsos opinion poll found released in September.
“You can not let the leader of one party change immigration restriction or immigration expansion in their primary issue without there being a biased backlash against it by the other party,” said David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.
“It [immigration] was a big focus of him [Trump’s] campaign and while he was in office, he just applied his anti-immigrant agenda everywhere, ”Bier told Al Jazeera.
Press for action
Ongoing efforts by members of Biden’s Democratic Party to pave the way for citizenship for the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US as part of an ambitious $ 1.85 billion, 10-year spending plan, got stuck due to Republican opposition. The proposal is unlikely to survive Senate rules governing budgetary measures.
Instead, the bill is expected to include $ 100 billion in funding to reduce “backlogs, expand legal representation, and make asylum and border processing more efficient and humane,” according to the white house.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
They want Democrats in Congress to push for legislation that, in addition to legalizing undocumented migrants, will provide paths to citizenship. IF recipients – migrants brought to the US as children – as well as for temporary protection status holders and farm workers.
They also called on the US to repair its asylum system, which it said was not functioning due to border restrictions, such as Title 42. Lawyers say their demands is long overdue and will keep promises made by the Biden administration campaigned on.
“Let’s make it clear. “Democrats in Congress have not kept their promises to the immigrant community for decades!” RAICES, a pro-immigration, Texas nonprofit organization, wrote on Twitter Friday.
Meanwhile, amid overall declining approval ratings for Biden, 68 percent of Americans said they disapproved of his handling of immigration and the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a ABC News / Ipsos poll published on 31 October.
“There are people on the move worldwide, fleeing economic and global climate crises and our asylum system is not functioning as intended as the world has changed over the past 35 years,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans, an immigrant advocacy organization.
She told Al Jazeera that the US should consider enacting legislation that would address current migration flows, such as designating new categories of migrants and asylum seekers to include climate refugees and people fleeing economic collapse.
“The world is changing right before our eyes and we do not have the mechanism to address that change in real time,” Melaku said.
Let’s make that clear. Democrats in Congress have not kept their promises to the immigrant community for decades! It’s time they #KeepThePromise and pass the #BuildBackBetterAct today with protection that the undocumented community deserves.
– RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) 5 November 2021