EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – President Biden dedicated all of 11 sentences to immigration and border security in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, highlighting achievements and calling on Congress to pass stalled immigration reform.
“Let’s get it done once and for all,” he said.
Earlier in the day, activists warned the administration and the Democrats will answer at the polls if they fail to make good on campaign promises to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for many years.
Biden proposed sweeping immigration reforms in his first week in office, but despite his party holding a majority in the House and having the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, has not seen them become law. The president and Democrats have proposed alternate paths to legalization through spending bills, but the Senate parliamentarian has ruled them out.
Republicans, too, got in the border security/immigration act, blaming Biden for precipitating a historic surge in unauthorized migration while allowing record amounts of the deadly drug fentanyl to enter the country.
But Biden insists his administration is making the Southern border more secure.
“At our border, we’ve installed new technology like cutting-edge scanners to better detect drug smuggling. We’ve set up patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers,” he said.
The president also harped on efforts to welcome to this country those fleeing persecution in theirs.
“We’re putting in place dedicated immigration judges so families fleeing persecution and violence can have their cases heard faster. We’re securing commitments and supporting partners in South and Central America to host more refugees and secure their own borders,” he said.
Biden also spoke of providing a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” – foreign-born individuals brought to the United States when they were children and who have gone through the American education system.
“Congress can provide a pathway to citizenship for ‘Dreamers,’ those on temporary status, farmworkers, and essential workers. Revise our laws so businesses have the workers they need, and families don’t wait decades to reunite,” the president said. “It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s the economically smart thing to do. That’s why immigration reform is supported by everyone from labor unions to religious leaders to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
The latest iteration of immigration reform consists of providing temporary status to those in the country for more than five years through the Build Back Better Act, which has stalled in the Senate due to opposition by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
The president in Tuesday’s speech did not hint as to how the deadlock will be broken.
The early reaction to his remarks was mixed.
“With deportations and expulsions continuing to climb, there’s no hiding the racial injustice the Biden administration continues to carry out against Black, brown and immigrant communities every single day,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream. “Just tonight, President Biden called for increased surveillance along the U.S-Mexico border, despite overwhelming evidence and testimonies from our communities that prove time and again the harmful, deadly effects of surveillance technology that perpetuates violence …”
Others echoed the president’s call for Congress to resolve its differences on the matter.
“President Biden was clear that Congress needs to work toward immigration reform this year, and the American people agree,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “Republicans and Democrats should work together to advance reforms that establish secure, orderly, humane processes at our borders and protect Dreamers, farm workers and temporary protected status recipients.”