New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Will Biden Make Immigration Sacrifice?

Author: New York Immigration Lawer Alena Shautsova

Joe Biden’s administration and a deeply divided Congress are trying to reach a consensus on the southern border and Ukrainian aid. Senators from both sides of the aisle are looking to create a framework for a deal that would appeal to both sides. The major topic of discussion is creating strong border security protocols and reforming asylum access in exchange for funding further aid to Ukraine. The Biden administration has expressed that it is willing to accept hard-line legislation on deportation and detention protocols. Unfortunately, any compromise will mean that undocumented residents will once again will live in constant fear and anxiety rather than hope for an Immigration reform.

Discussions Behind Closed Doors

Recently, the White House and Congress have held a series of meetings to go over the finer details of the new immigration policies. Meetings held so far centre around asylum conditions as well as increasing requirements for immigration interviews. Some of the discussions also involved increasing incarceration for asylum seekers with pending cases.

One more topic of discussion includes the founding of a new agency to unilaterally control the expulsion of migrants. This committee would have de facto power over expelling migrants during periods of high-volume border movement. A statement from a White House spokesperson revealed that progress is steady on these talks.

This supportive stance from the White House may be a result of GOP legislators threatening to oppose military aid to Ukraine. Joe Biden sees giving assistance to Ukraine in its fight against Russia as an issue of utmost importance. Republican Congress members want tougher restrictions on immigration, funding for immigration control authorities, and a tighter border. More to the point, they want the Biden administration to back these policies.

Parole Remains a Sticking Point

The Biden administration has used an old, post-WW2-era piece of legislation to fast-track settling immigrants. The law, passed all the way back in 1952, allowed Middle Eastern, Central, and South American immigrants to get settled quite quickly. The policy has also found use in freeing migrants held at the border. Some of the released individuals were actually in Mexico and registered online through a government app. Secure appointments via a government phone app.

The White House has said that making legal avenues for immigration easier and more accessible reduces the volume of illegal immigrants. Unsurprisingly, the Republican side of Congress vehemently disagrees. GOP members respond that lower standards for immigration allow thousands of unqualified immigrants through the border. They demand approval of new legislation to curtail the scope of the old law.

Coming Together to Enact a New Deal

At the end of the day, border security and immigration are broad issues with lawyers of topics within them. A lot of topics need quick resolution, so it is no surprise that all hands are on deck. Both the executive and legislative arms of Federal Government have remained locked in discussion. Sunday is the target date for a scheduled end to negotiations.

There are a few high level members of government in the committee. One of them is secretary of the DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas. From Congress, Republican senator James Lankford, Democrat Michael Bennet, and newly independent Kyrsten Sinema, take the lead. There are other administration officials who are also part of the conversations. Statements from different parties within the negotiation team all express a positive outlook and emphasize that there is progress. The Democrat camp also mentioned urgency on other issues, including the border, Ukraine, and Israel.

Quickening the Pace

The sense of urgency shows in how quickly the Biden administration has displayed willingness to play ball with the GOP. This is especially true considering the hard-line nature of some of the proposed policies. For example, there are a few comparisons between the proposed new immigration authority and a Trump-era relic: Title 42. The only differences between the two policies is their trigger. Title 42 was born from the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, the new agency will get activated if a certain threshold in immigration movement.

Republicans are advocating for the expansion of detention for single adults seeking asylum. Their aim is to reduce mass release of migrants, a topic they has long been a point of contention in the GOP camp. They propose making interviews harder for migrants, citing ‘credible fear’ to avoid deportation under the current. The House is also considering nationwide expansion of expedited removal, because the policy currently only applies to border sectors. This would be the first major change to the U.S. immigration system since the turn of the century. In fact, it would be the most hard-line immigration policy in the last 50 years.

Some Parties Are Unhappy With the New Developments

Many will celebrate the fact that Republicans and Democrats are finally agreeing on something. However, others will be watching with the proceedings with varying levels of trepidation. For some Democrats, these negotiations spell a shift in the acceptance of progressive policies in the federal government.

They are wary of tougher border policy, building a wall, increasing detentions, limiting parole, immigrant sponsorship, and asylum opportunities. Democrat Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal criticized the administration’s shift as harking back to the Trump years. The few weeks leading up to the end of this year could be pivotal. If these changes pass in Congress and get the signature of President Biden, they could have severe repercussions on immigration in the US for a long time.

Why not?

Why not, however, to add a possibility of revival of the Registry laws at this point? If to pass stricter border security measures, and expand the detention policies, why not to add pathways for “legal” immigration? The negotiations do not have to be limited to the options offered by the Republicans. Another good solution would be to allow people who overstayed their visas to adjust status in the United States if they are sponsored by employers, and allowing those self-employed to self-sponsor as well. Currently, the laws prohibit employment based adjustment of status for those who failed to maintain their lawful non-immigrant status in the United States or in other words those who overstayed their initial visas. This group includes asylum applicants: millions of persons who are stuck in tremendous asylum backlog. If these persons were provided an opportunity to seek status through employment or self-employment, the overwhelming backlog could have been probably completely eliminated!

18 December 2023
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