Pros and cons of immigration are up for debate after Democrats introduced President Joe Biden’s comprehensive bill in Congress. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Pros and Cons of Immigration
Ted Hesson of Reuters reports: “Democrats on Thursday formally introduced President Joe Biden’s sweeping immigration bill in Congress, a measure that would provide a path to US citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, but which faces long odds to passage.”
Alicia A. Caldwell of The Wall Street Journal provides additional context: “Federal authorities and aid groups say the number of families illegally crossing into the US and being rapidly released from immigration custody and dropped off in border towns is rising fast. Local officials and aid groups say they haven’t seen such large releases of migrants since 2019, when US border officials were overwhelmed by migrant families seeking asylum.” Pros and cons of immigration are now back in the spotlight, here’s what both sides are saying:
On The Right: Pros and Cons of Immigration
The right thinks that by publicly undermining sensible Trump Administration immigration policies, the Biden Administration is encouraging a new humanitarian crisis at the border.
According to Representative John Katko of New York writing for Fox News, “… we are on the precipice of a full-fledged border crisis,” thanks to President Biden’s rhetoric. Katko says the caravans of migrants on their way to the United States “is the direct result of the policies Biden preached on the campaign trail and the executive orders implemented in the early days of his administration.” Katko argues that “undoing them, especially during a pandemic, is an unforced error.” Katko continues, citing “border patrol agents in Texas [who] have already been forced to reimplement ‘catch-and-release’ – a sign of the seriousness of the surge.” Catch-and-release is “the practice of apprehending, issuing a notice to appear, and releasing [illegal immigrants] into the interior of the country.” It is a “pull factor for individuals crossing the border illegally.” Representative Katko notes that coronavirus spread is a risk as well since “those being released haven’t been tested for COVID-19. If this doesn’t scream ‘crisis,’ I am not sure what does.” Katko concludes with an olive branch of sorts by expressing his readiness to “work with [Biden] to uphold strong border security and immigration policies that protect the health, safety, and security of the United States. Otherwise, this humanitarian crisis will fall squarely on his shoulders.”
Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, pushed a similar border-security-for-immigration-reform idea on her show this past week. As reported by Charles Creitz, Ingraham said “there may be room for compromise on an immigration bill if there is any sense that Democrats would take enforcement seriously.” Republicans still recall a Reagan Administration Amnesty initiative that was predicated on a Democrat commitment to border security that never materialized. Ingrahm went on to challenge Democrats to “show us for a couple of years that they will lock down the border and really enforce it.” She doesn’t believe Dems will do that, however. While Biden’s immigration policies are “bad for America,” Ingraham believes they are good for the left in their cynical political calculations. To her, the Democrats “need new voters who won’t obsess about protecting Second Amendment rights or frankly worry about the Constitution at all.” Many on the right, including Ingraham, believe the 11 million figure mentioned above will translate into 11 million new voters for the Democrats.
Tom Fitton writing in The Hill sees little reason for optimism now that Biden’s “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials will not deport those with criminal records, including sex offenses, domestic violence, drug violations, property crimes, and any misdemeanors.” Fitton uses “92-year-old Queens resident Maria Fuertes” as an example. Last year, Fuertes “was raped and murdered, allegedly by Reeaz Khan, a 21-year-old illegal from Guyana. Months earlier, Khan was arrested in New York City for assault, and ICE authorities requested that he be turned over for possible deportation. Instead, Khan was released under New York sanctuary policies.” Fitton believes Biden’s immigration reforms will lead to more outcomes like Fuertes’. He says Biden’s “changes to immigration policies serve as critical examples of the ideologically driven, extreme policy priorities of our supposedly moderate president. Biden is effectively seeking open-borders amnesty by hook or by crook, with zero regard for public health and safety – or rule of law.”
In their view, Conservative commentators and representatives are simply asking for some level of collaboration on immigration enforcement. If the left can’t cooperate, they believe Biden’s immigration policies are purely politically motivated in order to expand the Democrat voting block at the expense of legal residents.
On The Left: Pros and Cons of Immigration
Democrats are celebrating what they see as an overdue and ambitious attempt by the Biden Administration to address immigration in a comprehensive manner.
In The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin argues that while the “chances of passage are small and President Biden has so many other priorities,” now is the time to champion comprehensive reform. Rubin cites three reasons for pushing forward ambitious legislation despite the long odds in Congress. First, Biden would be living up to his promise on the campaign trail. Second, it’s good politics to shore up Hispanic voters that Democrats lost to Trump. Third, Congress has shown that they can work on multiple tracks. Finally, Rubin believes it’s simply the right thing to do. Immigration, Rubin contends, “provides growth, entrepreneurial strength and young workers (needed to support retiring baby boomers). Previous analyses have shown that immigration reform will bolster growth and increase tax revenue.” The coronavirus crisis has severely impacted US growth and many cities and states are dealing with massive revenue shortfalls. Immigration is one way to address both issues.
Also in The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson expands on the case for a bold immigration policy that will win back Hispanic voters. He characterizes US immigration policy since Reagan as an era of “malign neglect” that merely paid lip service to the issue, treating immigrants “more like political props than living, breathing human beings, much less as neighbors.” Robinson ends by applauding Biden for not just asking “for a few minimal immigration fixes but for a comprehensive solution. This is a president who wants more than a return to the old ways: He’s shooting for a truly new normal.”
In The Atlantic, Juliette Kayyem warns Democrats about straying too far from the middle on the immigration issue. She states that “Biden’s more humane policies have led to rumors that the US-Mexico border is now essentially open, both for asylum seekers who show up at ports of entry and for others who cross unlawfully. Smugglers are eager to spread that idea. For the moment, the United States’ humanitarian interest lies not just in showing kindness to those who reach the border, but also in stemming the flow of people who undertake the journey in the first place.” Kayyem cites Customs and Border Protection officials who point out that encounters at the southwest border were at the “highest for January in a decade.” Kayyem is pushing for cooperation. As she sees it, “many Democratic candidates during the 2020 presidential-primary season supported decriminalization of unlawful border crossings, and activists and officials on the party’s progressive flank support the outright abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both positions, however, are unpopular among an American public that generally supports immigration.”
Generally speaking, the left is supportive of Biden’s push for comprehensive immigration reform. However, they are split on how progressive his administration’s immigration policies should be. When Representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sell “Abolish Ice” hats on their websites, some on the left note that concepts like this are too polarizing and not widely accepted.
Immigration is still an extremely important issue, but it’s not as pressing as it used to be in the eyes of the American public. According to Gallup in 2019, 27% of those polled named immigration the nation’s most important problem. However, “only 1% or 2% of Americans have mentioned immigration as the top problem since last April” thanks to the twin crises brought on by the pandemic: healthcare and economic recovery. With that said, immigration may still be a political winner for Democrats. A new poll conducted three weeks ago by left-leaning Vox found that 69% of likely voters “strongly” support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while 86% at least “somewhat” support it. Alternatively, a new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey shows 48% of voters oppose—and less than 2 in 5 support—Biden’s plan to allow as many as 125,000 refugees into the United States during the upcoming fiscal year. Biden’s refugee order is by far the least popular of the 28 executive actions they tracked.