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DelVal Dems Oppose Border Security Bill

Republicans want it. Democrats hate it. President Joe Biden has pledged to veto it. And the Delaware Valley’s congressional representatives don’t want to talk about it.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Thursday on a major border security bill—H.R. 2—that will very likely die a swift death in the Senate but will serve as a reminder of the country’s ongoing and escalating border crisis. The bill passed its final hurdle before a floor vote when Republicans, including Bucks County’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, joined the rest of his party in advancing the legislation.

“Extreme House Democrats have embraced the chaos on the southern border, allowing deadly drugs and violent criminals to flow into our country. Pennsylvania Democrats’ refusal to keep families safe is dangerous and disqualifying,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Gustafson.

The Biden administration on Thursday is set to formally end the pandemic-era Title 42 policy. It allowed the swift expulsion of illegal immigrants on the grounds of public health. The Trump-era policy has been used more than 2.8 million times since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency.

H.R. 2 is meant, in part, to address what is expected to be a massive flood of migrants entering the country in response to that program’s end.

The bill would order construction of the southern border wall to resume. It would increase enforcement personnel at the border and enact new restrictions on asylum seekers. It would clarify federal policies on family immigrant detention and restrict funding “to any nongovernmental organization that facilitates or encourages unlawful activity, including unlawful entry.”

None of the Delaware Valley Democratic representatives in Congress—Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Madeleine Dean—responded when asked about their thoughts on the bill and their intended votes on it. They all voted against allowing it to come to the House floor.

Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, was a co-sponsor of the Public Health and Border Security Act of 2022, a measure that would have prevented Biden “from lifting existing Title 42 immigration restrictions without a plan in place …to address the expected surge of migrants at the Southern border.”

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the threats our nation faces from a porous border and a fragmented immigration system,” Fitzpatrick said at the time, calling for “a workable plan that will ensure the humane treatment of migrants and keep our border and neighboring communities safe and secure.”

Scanlon this week directly addressed the upcoming immigration bill, writing on Twitter: “Pennsylvanian families and businesses are demanding fixes for our broken immigration system. Democrats are ready to work with Republicans on common sense, long-term solutions, but we will never agree to cruel and unworkable policies like their latest immigration scheme.”

At a House Judiciary hearing in February, meanwhile, Dean argued that Republicans “want the American people to be scared” of the reported crisis at the southern border. Like her fellow Democrats, Dean opposes deporting illegal immigrants simply for being in the U.S. illegally.

“The reality is, there is no ‘invasion,’ there are no ‘hordes of invaders,’ our borders are not being overrun by dangerous criminals,” she argued. “But we do have a broken immigration system.”

Dean acknowledged the U.S. is “suffering with an extraordinary drug problem” in the form of fentanyl, much of which comes across the border from Mexico. But she suggested the problem isn’t found among the huge streams of migrants crossing at porous border points.

“Ninety percent of fentanyl, heroin, and meth seized in this country is captured at ports of entry,” she said. “This means the drugs are being brought in through normal channels, not on the backs of families crossing at remote parts of the country.”

And on her website, Houlahan stated she “believe[s] strongly in secure borders – land, air, and sea.”

“We have the honor and duty of upholding our American values as we strive to implement immigration policy that centers on compassion, fairness, and national security,” she said. “What is happening at our southern border should alarm all of us.”

On Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced in a press conference a newly finalized federal rule that would allow the U.S. to “remove individuals who do not establish a reasonable fear of persecution in the country of removal.”

Noncitizens can establish criteria “if they have used our lawful pathways,” Mayorkas said, or “sought asylum or protection in another country through which they have traveled and were denied.”

Asked by reporters Wednesday if he believes the border is in crisis, Mayorkas declined to respond. He has repeatedly claimed that “the border is secure.”

Videos of the border show tens of thousands of undocumented migrants preparing to pour across the U.S. border, where most will be allowed into the U.S. and given a date to appear for a hearing.

Todd Bensman with the Center for Immigration Studies is at the border in Matamoros, Mexico, and reported “thousands of migrants flooding into the U.S. all day Wednesday. They are not waiting for the end of Title 42. Mexican immigration officials on the ground are powerless to do anything.”

In a policy statement this week, the White House said it “strongly supports productive efforts to reform the Nation’s immigration system but opposes H.R. 2.”

“If the president were presented with H.R. 2,” the statement said, “he would veto it.”

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PODCAST: Are PA Dems Facing a ‘Thunder Road’ Election Cycle?

GOP candidates look “Born to Run” as the midterm approaches, and DVJ News Editor Linda Stein talks to Christopher Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO), whether Democrats still have “Glory Days” ahead in November, or if they’re “Goin’ Down.”

(Borick also teaches a class at Muhlenberg called “Springsteen’s America,” which DVJournal thinks is a “Brilliant Disguise” for an academic who lives “On the Streets of Philadelphia.”)

They also discuss which Springsteen song is the greatest of all time which, says host Michael Graham, is obvious.

Mark Krikorian has nothing to say about Springsteen but, as the head of the Center for Immigration Studies, a great deal about the chaos at the U.S./Mexico border and how it might impact the Fetterman v Oz U.S. Senate battle.


MIXON: New Biden Policy a Step Backward for Asylum Seekers

I don’t have time to write this. Immigration lawyers like me around the country don’t have time. For those of us representing immigrant families who have arrived in the US in the last eight to 10 years seeking asylum from violence and persecution, those families still fighting their cases in immigration court. What we have is an obligation to keep families here at all costs and prevent deportation.

On April 3, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published guidance to the attorneys representing DHS. The guidance instructs DHS attorneys to use prosecutorial discretion to dismiss thousands of cases, mostly asylum cases, in immigration court, prioritizing for dismissal immigrants who crossed the border before November 1, 2020, and who are not a threat to national security or public safety.

The Biden Administration wants to decrease the “backlog” of cases to make room in the system for people who may enter in the next few months. American Immigration Lawyers Association recently estimated that there are about 700,000 low or nonpriority cases in the current immigration court “backlog.”

Sounds good on the face of it, but the devil is in the details. Here’s the problem – the Biden administration has decided that it is better to dismiss or terminate the low priority cases and leave immigrants in the US WITHOUT work permits or Social Security numbers. In other words, they will stay here but become part of the underground economy.

People who have had work permits for 6-8 years while they wait for a decision in their asylum or other immigration court case will lose work permits. When an immigrant loses their work permit, they also lose access to a driver’s license, their ability to pay taxes, register their children for college and complete the FAFSA for student loan eligibility. They will be vulnerable to unscrupulous employers, consumer fraud and criminals who see them as defenseless without “papers.”

What makes this decision to take away work permits more unconscionable is that there is a ready-made solution that worked just fine during the Obama Administration. It is called Administrative Closure.

An immigrant whose case is administratively closed continues to have their case in the immigration court, but with no future hearing date. The case is removed from the court’s active workload. The TRAC research center of Syracuse University calculated 69,355 immigration court cases closed using Administrative Closure as a form of prosecutorial discretion between 2012 and 2017. To no one’s surprise, the program ended with the Trump Administration.

In December 2021, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that he did not favor Administrative Closure. He wanted cases dismissed outright so that they would be permanently off the court’s docket. Mayorkas has no authority over the immigration courts; they are part of the Department of Justice. DHS does have to maintain and store the files for Administratively Closed cases, but it is hard to imagine this creates any significant hardship.

So, when DHS’s Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) Chief Kerry Doyle published guidance strongly favoring dismissal instead of Administrative Closure, she is following her boss’s lead. In an engagement webinar with immigration attorneys on April 5, 2022, she commented that the problem of work permits is “not in our lane.”

Apparently, the top priority for President Biden’s DHS team is to close cases at all costs. The Biden administration seems more concerned about counting beans, decreasing the official “backlog” of 700,000 cases, than the real cost in human terms.

It would have been so easy for the Biden administration to explain to press outlets and the public that administratively closed cases do not count as part of the immigration court “backlog” since they are not active cases.

It would have been so easy to avoid telling immigrants they must hide in the shadows again and can’t renew a work permit or social security number.

Now, the Biden administration wants me to be a part of their “solution.” They want me to encourage my clients not to object when the government asks to dismiss the case [DHS retains the right to dismiss cases even against the request of the immigrant and it may come to that].

Now, I must explain the pros and cons of dismissal to my clients, or at least try to explain. Dismissal will save them from the immediate threat of deportation, but it does not grant them any status. They will lose their work permits and go into the shadows with the other approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. It will be hard for them to see this as anything other than a significant step backwards.

Welcome to America.

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SHARRY: We Know Where Republicans Stand on Immigration. What Do Democrats Stand For?

The current immigration debate is more than a short-term skirmish over the future of Title 42 and how both parties position themselves tactically ahead of the midterms. It’s a battle over what kind of nation we want to be. It’s a battle over whether Democrats will fearfully and timidly aid and abet Republican extremism. It’s a battle over the future of the Democratic coalition and whether some Democrats are going to panic and end up helping Republicans slam the door on refugees and immigrants.

We know where Republicans stand on immigrants and refugees. They are waging a relentless scorched-earth war against immigrants and refugees. They want to block legislation that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship, keep out refugees, and slash levels and categories for the admission of legal immigrants. They have lurched to the far right on immigration because most have decided that feeding base GOP voters a steady diet of fear and hatred will help them spur turnout and regain power.

They are normalizing the dehumanization of immigrants and refugees by calling an uptick of those seeking refugee protection at our southern border – including Ukrainians, Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans – an “invasion.” Some even traffic in the trope that Democrats want to “replace” white Americans with immigrants and refugees of color. This is the kind of rhetoric that led to deadly violence in El Paso, Pittsburgh, and Charlottesville. It’s part of a cramped and weak worldview encouraged by the likes of Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, and Tucker Carlson who aim to turn America into a white ethnostate where the multiracial majority is dominated by a rightwing minority.

Democrats have a choice. They can stand for an America that recognizes immigrants and refugees as foundational to the American experiment, defends a welcoming tradition that is critical to the American future, and works to build an immigration system that integrates order and justice. Or they can cede the debate to Republicans, enable a radicalizing party to build walls, slam doors and incite violence, and let the vacuum they create be filled by those intent on advancing their countermajoritarian project.

Yes, there are challenging policy and political issues before us. Managing our southern border and responding to increases in border arrivals has been a challenge for every administration since 1980 – from Ronald Reagan to George Herbert Walker Bush to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump to Joe Biden. But a confident, strong and capable America is competent enough to manage and mitigate upticks in forced migration from within our hemisphere. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, we should be competent enough to fashion an immigration and refugee system that gives Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s terror an alternative to flying to Mexico and trying their luck with U.S. border guards. And a confident, strong and capable Democratic Party should be competent enough to defend proposals to enact a workable and balanced immigration system, values that define our diverse nation, and a multiracial democracy that is both under construction and under attack.

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