More darkness than light on the migration front

Taking a look at immigration developments in recent days, we find more darkness than light, and the certainty that in this electoral year, immigration will occupy the center of the debate, with a Republican Party that exploits the issue for political gamesmanship ends, and a Democratic Party on the defense, disposed to cede to Republican demands on the border and the asylum system. And, as in every electoral cycle, undocumented people—including the Dreamers— continue to wait for the elusive legalization that never comes.

The sudden death of the hardline immigration language that was part of the aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan—not due to Democratic opposition, but because the Republicans followed Donald Trump’s instructions to block it in order to continue playing politics with the issue during his campaign, illustrates various constants in the immigration debate over the past decades.

The first is how the Republican Party blocks any piece of legislation, even one that would’ve made some of the hardline initiatives on the border and undermining asylum laws that they have proposed for years into reality. The obstruction strategy has been constant even before the Trumpist faction controlled the Republican Party.

It’s about politicking with the issue, even when that prevents solving the urgent problems of an outdated and broken migration system that they themselves say they want to repair. Because solving the problem would take away one of their favorite electoral weapons, which is using immigrants as scapegoats, and the border as an excuse to accuse the Democrats of incompetence.

After so many years, the result now, with a new reality and different challenges for the Dreamers, has little flavor.

If there was a solution, the anti-immigrant discourse they use to mobilize their MAGA base would lose power. Anti-immigrant rhetoric, while always present, has taken on a dangerous intensity with Trump on the political scene, so much so that conspiracy theories like “the great replacement” or an “invasion,” previously limited to marginal supremacist groups, are now wielded and normalize by legislators and Republican presidential primary candidates. The “invasion” rhetoric has cost lives and has the potential to continue doing so.

Democratic concessions and their consequences

Not to mention the demagogic impeachment process against the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas, not because he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but because they are not in agreement with the president’s migration policy. The Republicans have used the “invasion” at the southern border and the ”replacement” theory to justify the process against Mayorkas.

Another constant is that, upon feeling the political heat of an electoral year, the Democrats ceded to Republican pressure and, as occurred in this instance, made a series of concessions that would have had difficult consequences on immigrant communities and people seeking asylum. And they did it without asking for legalization, even if only for the Dreamers, in exchange. The political pressure of the images of thousands of refugees in Democratic cities and a chaotic border weighed more in Democratic calculations.

They failed to take advantage of an enormous opportunity to defend, without fear, a migration policy that combines security with sensible and humane solutions appropriate for a developed nation with a solid Immigrant tradition.

The legalization that never comes

The third constant is that undocumented immigrants continue to wait for a legalization that never comes. But despite everything they are one of the motors of our economy. They work in all the vital industries—health, agriculture, and food services, as well as in construction and other positions.

They pay billions of dollars in federal, state, and local taxes annually. And although they cannot benefit from Social Security or Medicare, they continue making contributions to these programs through their employers.

Even those who arrived recently, including refugees, contribute to the economy. According to an analysis from the Immigration Research Initiative, as soon as they begin to work, immigrants contribute millions of dollars in state and local taxes, and the figure rises as their incomes increase. For example, within two years of arriving in the United States, every 1,000 new immigrant workers will earn $22 million in combined salaries, which means not only productivity, but more purchasing power and more dollars for the Treasury. The figure rises to $32 million annually as soon as they get situated, learn English, and their incomes increase.

Photo / Araceli Arroyo

In closing, as we have written in this space previously, the country benefits from the work and services of undocumented immigrants, and from what those millions of people and their family members spend and contribute. But when it comes to legalizing them so that they can contribute even more, xenophobia and messages of hate weigh more for Republicans. And in the case of Democrats, fear and political malpractice do not help either.

Comment here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button