Juan Escalante and Gabe Ortiz on fixing America’s immigration system

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As immigration continues to be a “hot button” issue that Republicans exploit to rile up their base, what’s at stake for new migrants arriving for the border, and how can we help undocumented immigrants already living in America? How can we support undocumented Americans, as well as ensure the inhumanity of the way migrant children are being treated at the border? Ortiz and Escalante discussed the path forward.

Much of the progress we have seen so far was built on the years of work put in by immigration reform advocates. As Eleveld noted, a great deal changed after activists pushed President Obama to sign the DREAM Act into law: “The DREAM activists changed the norm, they changed the paradigm. They changed it so that it’s hard to go back to ‘normal.’” Eleveld wondered what the GOP could offer as an alternative, as they seem so focused on complaining about this that in all conversations about the issue, they are obfuscating the fact that the situation at the border still requires a humane solution.

Senators like Ted Cruz exemplify this lack of care about finding real solutions, as he and his colleagues continue to make jokes about the dire state of the American immigration system and employ increasingly hard-line, anti-immigrant rhetoric against the migrants. As Escalante explained,

Instead of trying to actually trying to figure out a way forward … [Republicans like Ted Cruz] would rather just try to essentially poke fun at it and continue to feed the beast that is the far right, and to be honest … the Republican Party as a whole, even if they came up with a solution, it wouldn’t be a solution that is grounded in reality … it’s grounded in the rhetoric of Steven Miller and Donald Trump to try to shift the conversation that way.

Regardless of the behavior of GOP members of Congress, the group agreed that all eyes are on the current administration, which has a lot of potential to increase protections for undocumented immigrants. But, as Escalante said, “What the Biden administration is doing is trying to essentially roll the DACA program into a rule-making process while it’s navigating the legal system, the judiciary, right now.” He emphasized:

Congress has the authority right now to essentially pass bills and send one to the President to ensure he fulfills his promise of bringing as many people out of the shadows … There’s some political will out there, but unfortunately, what we’re seeing is essentially excuses from some Republican members of Congress. We’re seeing relics of the past, like the filibuster, stand in the way. I think that if we’re going to go bold and truly transform this country into a better place for all, then we need to do this right now and not wait for midterms or any other elections to come around. We need decisive [action] right now.

In terms of concrete action, Escalante also noted that a number of bills are making their way through Congress right now, including the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, legislation to offer citizenship to migrant farmworkers, the Dream and Promise Act, and the DREAM Act.

Moulitsas and Escalante then discussed the pushback on immigration reform and support for hardline anti-immigrant policies among certain parts of the Latino community in the U.S., urging the need for nuance when discussing the cultural views on the issue and not assuming a monolithic opinion.

There is an urgent need to combat the spread of misinformation among immigrant communities, Ortiz and Escalante said, by showing that Biden is delivering on the protections their communities need—and not Republicans. They also urged listeners to understand that denying assistance to children should not even be a point of discussion. Ortiz added,

There is an urgency there because they are children. They are already really vulnerable when they come to our country, and even more so because they’re coming without a parent. They might be coming with a sibling, or perhaps an older relative, but because it’s without a parent, they’re already missing someone who would be an advocate for them in normal circumstances. There’s an urgency because there are so many children stuck in these border facilities. There are general agreements that these facilities are not fit for children, but the danger is that there are many children who are stuck in these facilities because they cannot be transferred to HHS quickly enough.

It is clear that change is needed—but how can we get involved? Escalante urged people to call members of Congress to make sure they support bills and amendments that build a pathway to citizenship for millions of people, including essential frontline workers like healthcare workers, grocery store employees, migrant farmworkers, and more. Ortiz also believes a fundamental shift away from oppressive systems is also crucial to ensuring justice for migrants:

We really have to pressure our legislators and President Biden to move away from the policy of throwing billions at ICE, and CBP, and the wall, and instead use that money to create a better, more humane system where we treat children with dignity and humanity—the way we would want our own children to be treated.

Moulitsas closed the show on a sober note, addressing the hypocrisy of the Republican Party and its policies and the use of children as a talking point or cudgel for the party platform when useful. As he said, “You do not close the door on people in need. And for Republicans to talk about abortion and saving children and the babies, but then be so viciously anti-helping children after they’re born—so many examples, from assistance to single mothers to this—really shows how cruel they are … It’s never been about children.”

This week’s episode can be viewed below:

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