The human price of failing to act on immigration reform
On Tuesday night, President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union speech, calling the nation “strong.” But in the speech that lasted a little more than an hour, he spent less than a minute talking about immigration. Most of that discussion focused on securing the border from unlawful migration, arresting human smugglers and seizing drugs.
You can watch the full address here and read his prepared remarks here.
But what he failed to mention in his speech are the people, and the human price of failing to act on immigration reform.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine, more than 20,000 Ukrainian refugees used Mexico as a transit route to enter the United States. This happened two months before Biden announced a program that would streamline the process for Ukrainian citizens to immigrate to the United States through a sponsorship program, Sahan Journal reports. During that time, Ukrainians were able to cross into the U.S. and apply for asylum, humanitarian parole or a tourist visa.
But the problem is that those who entered the country without sponsorship are now excluded from receiving federal benefits available to other Ukrainian refugees who arrived under Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine program.
“Our system is set up to dissuade that kind of migration to the U.S.,” Edmundo Lijo, the director of St. Paul’s immigrant and refugee program, told Sahan Journal. “And the way we do that is to make it really hard to get employment authorization.”
The same is true for those trying to flee gang violence in Haiti. In 2023 alone, The Haitian Times has published numerous stories attempting to make sense of the Biden administration’s new immigration rules for Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Cubans.
“This [parole process] seems much more of a gamble and much more of an iffy situation,” potential sponsor Karen Wires of Virginia told The Haitian Times.
And the hardship doesn’t end once immigrants arrive in the U.S., with states like North Carolina introducing anti-immigrant bills in their state houses, as La Noticia reports.
Late last month, 41 state legislators (all white and all Republican) introduced a bill that would require local law enforcement agencies to collaborate with federal immigration agencies to enforce immigration law.
And while proposals like this have been blocked by the state’s governor in the past, we must continue to talk about the negative impacts they will have on our communities, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. —Alicia Ramirez
Uplift. Respect. Love.