The Republican response to asylum-seeking children? Legislation to instead strip their rights


“Five of the new bills target asylum specifically,” and children in particular, Immigration Impact reported. Proposed changes would “[a]llow children to be detained for up to 100 days, far beyond the 20-day limit currently set by the Flores Settlement Agreement.” Further proposals would “[a]mend the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to allow unaccompanied children to be immediately expelled from the border.”

The previous administration already sought to squash on that act by executive fiat, against the advice of health experts using the novel coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to expel asylum-seeking children back to the danger they fled from thousands of times. The previous administration used that health order against children throughout most of 2020, and stopped in November only due to a federal judge’s order. 

Republicans also seek to restart the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which has been halted by the Biden administration. While Republicans are returning to the southern border this week for another stunt where they’re pretending to be concerned about the treatment of migrants, reviving Remain in Mexico would in fact be a return to cruelty. But that’s probably a big reason why Republicans liked the inhumane and illegal policy in the first place.

“The remaining four bills focus on immigration-related funding and enforcement issues,” Immigration Impact continued. Proposed legislation would “[d]efund several actions taken during Biden’s first week in office, including a reversal of ICE’s new enforcement priorities and revoking federal support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.” Never mind that even the previous administration didn’t try to end the program a second time when it had the chance, maybe recognizing it would be a really, really unpopular move in an election year.

And before Republicans try to tell us oh we do like immigration, we just want it done legally, they don’t want it to happen legally, either (though it must be mentioned that asylum is also legal immigration). “Two of the recently introduced bills target legal immigration channels,” Immigration Impact said, including elimination of the program “which grants green cards to 50,000 randomly selected people from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States.”

None of the proposals take any action to improve our unfair immigration system. If they wanted that, they could have rallied en mass behind any one of the several legalization bills introduced in this session of Congress. While two significant pieces of legislation recently passed the House with bipartisan support, the vast majority of Republicans remained opposed to those bills and their popular paths to citizenship. Recent polling found “the DREAM Act to have 72% support, citizenship for undocumented farmworkers to have 71% support, and citizenship for undocumented essential workers to have 66% support.”

The path to citizenship for the overall undocumented community is similarly popular, with polling showing that voters prefer legalization over deportation, 79% to 21%. “Even base Republicans prefer citizenship over deportation by a 61% to 39% margin,” researchers said. “Citizenship for the undocumented is a consensus  issue—not  a  divisive  one—as  the major citizenship proposals facing Congress are all very popular, with substantial support across partisan lines.”

The twice-impeached president may be out of office, but Republicans have made a clear decision to remain aligned with his policies. “Will racism and xenophobia deliver victory for Republicans in 2022? Let’s check the record,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said, referencing the losses of notorious anti-immigrant loudmouths like Steve King, Kris Kobach (twice!), Lou Barletta, Corey Stewart, and, of course, the former occupant of the White House. Stephen Miller, strategic genius he is not.

“Well, it failed and backfired in races from 2017 through 2020,” Sharry continued. “Republicans may be desperately casting about for a racist dog-whistle hot button issue, but Mr. Potato Head and cancel culture may be more promising than reprising a wedge issue that has lost its edge.”

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