As 2022 arrives, lawmakers are gearing up for what will undoubtedly be a contentious battle for the control of Congress later this year, and immigration policies are expected to be the central issue in campaigns.
As polls and congressional numbers currently stand, Republicans will almost certainly recapture Congress following the midterm elections next November. Democrats, whose current control of both chambers of Congress by the thinnest margins in United States history, have 48 senators, 221 representatives, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
Upon taking office in January 2021, President Joe Biden demanded a sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration policies and vowing to eliminate programs implemented by former President Donald Trump. These are programs Biden cited as policies to deny legal rights and humanitarian protections of migrants and all but eliminates their ability to seek asylum in the United States.
Thus far, immigration reform has been a consistent uphill battle for the Biden Administration with Congress. The president’s plan would improve border and asylum processing, reduce application backlogs, and provide additional legal representation for migrants. A Republican overtake of Congress could eliminate the administration’s proposals for improvement efforts and reinstate Trump-era expulsion policies and restrictions jeopardizing thousands of immigrants and may further construction on a border wall between Mexico and the United States.
Biden’s Border Crisis
Despite intentions and campaign promises to the contrary, Biden and his administration left certain Trump-era policies in place and encountered legal rulings forcing decisions on others. His actions have been met with increasing harsh criticism from both aisles of Congress, immigration officials, and portions of the public.
Deferred action for childhood arrivals. In 2012, former President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States as children. The program allowed protections from deportation and allows them to obtain a Social Security number, a driver’s license, and a work permit. Following through on a campaign promise to reinstate DACA following the Trump administration’s termination of the program in 2017, Biden was forced to terminate it once again in July when a federal judge in Texas ruled the policy illegal.
Title 42 deportations at the southern border. Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the United States began joining an already growing number of migrants from other countries in a makeshift encampment under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
As the number of arrivals surged dramatically over the summer, the administration announced plans to deport those gathered in Del Rio, citing COVID-19 concerns and invoking Title 42 protocols. A provision of public health law, Title 42 allows government officials to issue an emergency order preventing entry into the United States because of the threat of introducing a serious communicable disease. In August, immigration authorities began an aggressive deportation, emptying the encampment within days, along with a record number of arrests. Thousands of migrants were sent back to their home countries or forced into Mexico.
Remain in Mexico policy. In 2019, President Trump created the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which ordered migrants seeking asylum in the United States to stay in Mexico while awaiting court hearings. In total, more than 70,000 were returned to Mexico and approximately 20,000 are still encamped there. A critic of the program, also known as Remain in Mexico, Biden terminated it early into his presidency, fulfilling a campaign promise. In August, the U.S. Supreme Court backed a Texas judge’s earlier ruling that the president terminated the program improperly, and ordered it be restored in November.
How Are the Parties Faring on Immigration Issues?
Republicans see election opportunity in the president’s failed border policies and have already begun capitalizing on the opportunity. The Republican National Committee is already in offense mode, deploying a messaging strategy that immigration impacts all Americans in all states, not just those along the border. Republicans have begun airing commercials aimed at immigration policies, and in December, the Federation for American Immigration Reform launched an advertising campaign declaring the border as lawless, while attacking the president and Democrats.
The Democrats’ battle to pass immigration legislation reforms sustained a major blow just before the Christmas break, possibly losing their last opportunity before the midterm elections. Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough stripped immigration reform measures from Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which Congress then failed to vote on, essentially killing the bill. The Act is being considered through the reconciliation process, and according to the terms of that process, MacDonough ruled the immigration measures were ineligible and removed them.
All may not be lost for Democrats, as one senator and several political news analysts have recently stated the bill does have opportunity to be resurrected, although Democrats will continue facing potential roadblocks to push through the president’s promises of immigration reform.
Where Do Voters Stand on Immigration Issues?
With the looming midterm elections in November, several news outlets and others are polling American voters regarding their stances on immigration issues, and responses seem to currently favor the Republican party.
A Reuters opinion survey in October showed that Republican voters polled considered immigration to be the issue they would be very angry about if the government’s actions oppose their own views. Democratic voters polled did not register immigration policies at all in their top-12 most-angering issues. According to researchers, anger is the most likely motivator for voting over other emotions.
A Wall Street Journal poll showed that voters’ concern over immigration, 13 percent, outranks the rising inflation rate at 10 percent and the economy at 11 percent. When asked which political party could fix the immigration system, 41 percent said the Republicans and 27 percent chose the Democrats, 20 percent answered uncertain, whereas nine percent responded both parties equally. On the issue of securing the border, 52 percent chose the Republicans and 16 percent chose Democrats.
Another recent OnMessage, Inc. poll funded by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in November concluded that immigration proposals are overwhelmingly unpopular. Results according to the poll found that:
- Fifty-nine percent oppose undocumented immigrants receiving amnesty.
- Fifty-six percent oppose immigrants who overstay their visa and those who cross into the county illegally receiving legal status, work permits, and federal benefits.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Work with Clients Needing Immigration Assistance
Regardless of election issues, the United States has many long-standing laws and programs in place and awards visas, work permits, and other protections to thousands of immigrants each year. The experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC are available to help clients through many processes of living and working in the United States. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.