Immigrant advocacy groups opposed to the bipartisan Senate deal to overhaul US immigration law called for a restart of policy discussions after the bill failed in the Senate. The bill was defeated in a procedural Senate vote of 49-50 on Wednesday, with all but four Republicans voting no. Immigration advocates argued that the bill would have made unacceptable changes to the asylum system. However, those groups argue that there is still time for Congress to consider an immigration overhaul, something it hasn’t done in nearly four decades.
Within days of its introduction, Senate Republicans rejected the agreement that a bipartisan trio of senators worked out with the White House over a four-month period. Advocates slammed the deal, claiming it included Trump-era policies and made concessions to asylum law. “Senate leadership and the Biden administration are cowering to MAGA Republicans who are using immigrants as political pawns to grow their right-wing base,” United We Dream’s deputy director of federal advocacy, Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, said in a statement. “As Democrats, we cannot accept Trump-era policies that hurt people, our economy, and the asylum process,” said Texas Rep. Greg Casar, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Casey Swegman, director of public policy at the Tahirih Justice Centre in Falls Church, Virginia, said she wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the immigration deal. She cited the exclusion of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as senators with “a long history of working in good faith on compromise immigration reform.” The three senators who brokered the deal were Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma, Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. “To be honest, advocates had very little hope that what came out of those negotiations would be any kind of starting point for us in terms of thinking about what is really needed to improve our immigration system, which we all accept needs work,” she went on to say.
The immigration agreement did not accurately reflect the situation at the southern border. It refused to acknowledge the fact that we are now living in a world of increased conflict, instability, and migration. The proposal to raise the bar for a credible fear asylum screening from a “significant possibility” to a “reasonable possibility” raises the bar, which could mean “life or death for the people we are serving,” she said.
While many immigration advocacy groups opposed the immigration deal in the Senate, others recognised that divided government, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans controlling the House, necessitated compromise. Matthew Soerens, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, a Christian humanitarian organisation based in Baltimore, believes Congress should not abandon the idea. He cited the bill’s increase in family and employment visas, as well as a provision that would create a path to residency for Afghan nationals who worked and assisted the US government before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban following the US withdrawal in 2021.
President Joe Biden was disappointed that the bill did not address Dreamers. Soerens believes that the majority of Americans want Congress to work together to fix the immigration system, but admits that passing immigration reform would require a miracle.