Is Beto O’Rourke Right To Criticize Biden On Immigration?

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The message to Joe Biden was clear as many participated in a rally calling on immigration reform at Grand Army Plaza on November 12, 2021 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Thurs. Nov. 25, 2021: On Sunday, November 21st, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic former U.S. congressman who is running for governor of Texas, criticized President Joe Biden for a lack of urgency on pursuing a revamp of immigration laws.

O’Rourke said he will distance himself from the White House in his underdog campaign, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday: “I do not think we have seen enough urgency when it comes to rewriting our immigration laws to match the needs and the reality that we see, especially in our border communities. So, yes, we expect more of our president and those who represent us in Congress.”

So, is O’Rourke, right? Sure, he is.

Let’s take a look at what has happened since Biden and his first black, Asian and Caribbean American Veep, Kamala Harris, took office.

Biden has kept in place Title 42, the controversial order first implemented by Donald Trump last year, that allows migrants to be immediately expelled without an opportunity to seek asylum in light of the pandemic.

Biden has deported thousands, including almost 10,000 back to Haiti, a country that is now being run by gangs and is in a mega-crisis after the assassination of its president in July and the earthquake that followed in August.

Biden’s veep and appointed immigration czar, Harris, has been famously MIA from the issue and largely missing from public view, leading many to question what exactly her role in the administration is.

She has been also largely missing from negotiations on the Hill over lobbying efforts for inclusion of immigration reform in the Build Back Better Act. The weakness of the veep is evident to many and its hard to see her running for President in 2024 even with Biden’s blessings.

Luckily the Build Back Better Act passed the House on Nov. 19th with immigration measures that would allow undocumented people present in the U.S. since before 2011, up to 10 years of work authorization. It, however, fell short of an initial goal to offer them a pathway to citizenship.

The bill also includes long-term work permits and protections for seven million hard-working immigrant essential workers that will help prevent family separation, stabilize the workforce, boost the economy, and create jobs, according to Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Raúl Ruiz (D-Calif.).

The measure also offers a sort of waiver to immigration laws, using a process known as parole, to allow people to stay in the country for five years, with the option to extend for another five years thereafter.

It is the most extensive immigration reform package passed by the House in 35 years, albeit in a much-reduced version from what advocates sought.

The provisions fall way short of what Biden and Harris as well as most Democrats’ ran on and promoted – the goal of providing a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

With Democrats barely controlling the Senate and with Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema against filibuster, The House-passed bill will now go to the Senate under reconciliation rules, in an effort to sidestep the filibuster rule.

The parliamentarian, an unelected official who provides counsel on Senate rules, has already said that the first two Democratic immigration proposals were incompatible with reconciliation, warning they went beyond a budgetary impact and represented a substantial change in policy.

The third proposal — with the parole option included in the passed House bill — has yet to be presented to the parliamentarian, so its unclear if she will reject this as well.

If it is rejected as well, Democrats will face a tough fight in 2022 to hold on to the House and the Senate, as immigrant voters and independents in support of immigration reform turn their backs on the Party.

It’s unclear how Manchin and Sinema will vote on this bill, as they have already signaled, they don’t support every item in the House’s bill.

While Sinema said she supports the current package’s immigration proposals, she has also acknowledged there are “legal limitations to what can be done in a reconciliation package.”

Manchin for his part has told Fox News that he generally did not support changes to immigration policy that were not accompanied by enhanced border security.

“For us to even be talking about immigration without border security is ludicrous,” he said earlier this month.

The fact is that O’Rourke is right. The Biden White House has not shown its real vigilance on the hot button issue and has largely kept in place the Trumpian strategy on the southern border crisis and in dealing with Haitians and Central American migrants. Beto is absolutely right to distance himself from the administration, that is a mega disappointment to immigrants and immigrant voters.  

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow