Immigration advocates call for fresh start after Senate deal collapses • Georgia Recorder

WASHINGTON – Immigrant advocacy groups opposed to the Senate's bipartisan agreement to overhaul U.S. immigration law called for a resumption of policy discussions as the bill failed in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Several advocacy groups opposed the deal, which was defeated in a procedural 49-50 vote in the Senate on Wednesday after all but four Republicans rejected its support. Immigration advocates said the bill would have made unacceptable changes to the asylum system.

But these groups say there is still an opportunity to pursue immigration reform, something Congress hasn't done in nearly 40 years.

“This bill may be dead, but this issue (of immigration) will come up again and again for political reasons,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, deputy director of Advocates for Human Rights, a group based in Minnesota.

The deal, which a bipartisan trio of senators had negotiated with the White House for four months, collapsed just days after it was introduced by Senate Republicans.

Supporters criticized the deal

The bill's failure was expected and sought by some immigration advocacy groups and Latino lawmakers, who criticized the White House and its Democratic colleagues for giving up too much in negotiations.

Supporters said the bill incorporates Trump-era policies and makes concessions on asylum rights.

“Senate leadership and the Biden administration are cowering to MAGA Republicans who are using immigrants as political pawns to expand their right-wing base,” Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, the deputy director of United We Dream’s federal chapter, said in a statement Explanation.

“As Democrats, we cannot accept Trump-era policies that harm people, our economy and the asylum process,” said Texas Rep. Greg Casar, a Democrat who is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Casey Swegman, director of public policy at the Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church, Virginia, said she was not surprised by the fate of the immigration deal.

She noted that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was left out of the talks, as were senators who “have long worked in good faith on compromise immigration reform.”

The three senators who brokered the deal were Sens. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona.

“To be honest, advocates had very little hope that the outcome of these negotiations would serve as a starting point for us to think about what is really needed to improve our immigration system, something we all need to work on,” Swegman said .

The Tahirih Justice Center helps immigrants facing gender-based violence, which is why Swegman said the proposed changes to the credible fear standard in asylum seeker screenings are so concerning.

“It is already very difficult for an asylum seeker who files a gender-based violence claim to obtain asylum, even if there is a valid application,” she said.

The proposal to raise the bar for credible fear asylum screening from a “significant possibility” to a “reasonable possibility” is a higher bar that could mean “life or death for the people we serve,” she said.

“When we think about raising this standard of fear, it may sound like splitting hairs to some people, but in reality it is like slamming the door in the face of those with valid asylum claims who are not given a chance or opportunity.” these allegations,” she said.

Swegman said the immigration deal does not reflect the reality at the southern border.

“It refuses to acknowledge the reality that we now live in a world of increasing conflict, increasing instability and increasing migration,” she said. “And what we see in this package are proposals that seem to deny that reality.”

McKenzie, of Advocates for Human Rights, said the U.S. policy of pouring money into enforcement doesn't curb migration, it just makes it more dangerous.

“This has been the same strategy for 40 to 50 years, trying to mythically seal the border and force our way out and force our way out of a very human condition, which is the relocation of people,” she said .

Accept compromises

While many immigration advocacy groups in the Senate expressed opposition to the immigration deal, others acknowledged that divided government, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans holding a majority in the House, required a compromise.

“Only Congress can change the law, and in the current situation that means bipartisanship, that's the only way anything can change,” said Matthew Soerens, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, a Christian humanitarian organization based in Baltimore.

The difficulty of passing immigration legislation became clear this week when Senate Republicans followed the lead of their House colleagues and the party's front-runner, former President Donald Trump, in opposing the deal.

Trump has made fear of immigration at the southern border his central campaign message. House Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, both Louisiana Republicans, said shortly after the bill's text was released that they would not allow a vote on the Senate proposal.

As unprecedented numbers of migrants have arrived at the southern border, the issue has led to growing hostility between Republicans and Democrats.

Most recently, Republicans in the House of Representatives failed on Tuesday to pass a resolution to impeach US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas over political disputes.

After Senate Republicans insisted for months on linking an immigration bill to a funding bill to provide aid and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific partners, Senate leaders dropped the immigration provisions Wednesday after the vote on the The overall package had failed.

That means Congress will not take immediate action to address the largest number of migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border in 20 years.

I need a miracle

But Congress shouldn't give up on the idea, Soerens said, adding that there are some aspects of the immigration deal that he's pleased about.

He pointed to the bill's increase in family and employment visas, as well as a provision intended to create a path to residency for Afghan nationals who have worked and helped the U.S. government before Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021 fell to the Taliban.

But he noted that the bill falls short in other areas, such as the lack of a path to citizenship for more than 800,000 people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. These DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers,” after the DREAM Act, which Congress failed to pass in 2010.

President Joe Biden also expressed disappointment that the bill did not take Dreamers into account.

“One thing I'm disappointed that we didn't get done in the Senate article was … the Dreamers,” Biden said Monday. “It is ridiculous.”

Soerens said he believes most Americans want Congress to come together to improve the immigration system.

“I am frustrated that the proposal was rejected so quickly,” he said.

He added that as a Christian he believes in miracles and acknowledged that it would take a miracle for Congress to pass immigration reform.

“We believe in the resurrection,” said Soerens. “So this has been declared dead a few times, but we will continue to work on it.”