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3 Concerning Problems With Biden’s Immigration Announcement

The New Year brings renewed troubles for those seeking to cross the nation’s southwest border.
Texas National Guard troops block migrants at a border crossing along the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas on December 20.

By Mike Givens on January 6, 2023

You can help the US end Title 42. This letter is addressed to the Biden administration from our Members of Congress. Please read the letter, and if you agree, please contact your Member of Congress (find their contact information here) and ask that they sign on to this letter encouraging the Biden administration to treat immigrants with dignity and respect.

On January 5, President Biden made an important announcement regarding immigration policies along the southwest border. While the administration framed its announcement as fair, there are some troubling realities that will significantly impact people exercising their human right to migrate.

Here are three troubling facts about President Biden’s immigration announcement:

It Expands Title 42

Title 42 is a public health policy that dates back to 1944. It gives the U.S. government carte blanche to detain and deport people in migration over public health concerns and former President Trump used the pandemic as grounds to deport hundreds of thousands of people back to danger.

While Biden campaigned on an immigrant-friendly platform, his actions over the last two years have demonstrated quite the opposite. Like Trump, Biden has consistently used Title 42 to expel thousands of people back to their nations of origin. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ruled last spring that Title 42 was no longer necessary, the administration continued its deportations. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Title 42 should be shuttered, but lawsuits and protests from individual states have forced the court to pause that judgment.

Even as the Supreme Court announced a freeze on Title 42’s dismissal, the Biden administration continued developing ideas for strict border policies to limit “unlawful entry” into the United States.

In its January 5 announcement, the administration announced a plan to provide a limited number of people from Nicaragua, Cuba, Ukraine, and Haiti to obtain humanitarian parole. However, anyone not fitting its criteria—having an eligible sponsor and passing background checks—will be immediately deported under the Title 42 policy.

Biden’s Venezuela Initiative Is Not What It Appears To Be

In October, the administration launched the Venezuela Initiative to provide humanitarian parole to 24,000 Venezuelan nationals entering the United States. While this announcement was framed as a win, it belies an alarming fact: Its restrictions are so limiting that only a fraction of those in need of safe refuge will have access to it in the United States.

Venezuela is a nation that is experiencing social and political upheaval. Thousands of people are leaving the nation—the Department of Homeland Security estimates that a quarter of Venezuela’s population have been displaced—with plans to reach safety and start new lives. In order to qualify for the program, a Venezuelan national must have “financial sponsorship” in the United States and anyone who does not will be deported to Mexico. The bilateral agreement between the United States and Mexico for the latter nation to accept any Venezuelan national deported from U.S. soil is in fact a permission slip for the United States to not meet its international human rights obligations.

If the population of Venezuela is roughly 28 million people and a quarter (greater than 700,000 people) have fled, the United States is only committing to accept around three percent of those asylum-seekers—and only if those asylum-seekers have financial sponsorship from someone in the United States.

While the Biden administration lauds the Venezuela Initiative and the extension of it to Cuba, Haiti, Ukraine, and Nicaragua, it’s clear that the criteria are meant to be deterrents.

Partisan Attacks Don’t Mean the Biden Administration Is Doing All It Can

The fact sheet takes the opportunity to attack Republicans, whom the administration has accused of “playing political games.”

The announcement says that Biden’s immigration plan as proposed at the start of the presidency would be successful, “if Republicans in Congress who have spent the past two years talking about border security quit blocking the comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office, and opposing the billions of dollars in additional funds the President has requested for border security and management.”

While some blame can be placed on Republicans, immigration reform—like so many other issues—is bipartisan. President Biden may be stymied in implementing his own immigration program, but the blame lies squarely on his administration for the rampant use of Title 42, limiting humanitarian parole programs, and its flagrant use of harsh detention and deportation policies.

If the President truly cares about progress, he will prioritize making the humanitarian parole process as humanitarian as possible and stop expanding Title 42 when it’s clear that the United States should be living into its international asylum obligations.

Image Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

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