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Politics 6 experts give a letter grade on Biden-Harris administration's handling of immigration thus far

05:37  03 august  2021
05:37  03 august  2021 Source:   businessinsider.com

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  • Immigration has proven a prevalent issue in the Biden-Harris administration's first six months.
  • The Biden administration will continue a controversial Trump-era CDC border closure policy, known as Title 42, according to a Monday report from The New York Times.
  • Insider asked seven experts to grade the administration on its handling of immigration thus far.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Biden administration will continue a controversial Trump-era Centers for Disease Control and Prevention border closure policy, known as Title 42, according to a Monday report from The New York Times.

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Since President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office more than six months ago, their administration's immigration policies and campaign promises have often been in the spotlight.

From a steady increase of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border (including a potential all-time high in July), to a near-constant barrage of Republican and Democratic criticism over the issue, to the uncertainty if Dreamers will be included in the infrastructure reconciliation bill, there are still many immigration issues for the administration to negotiate.

Harris has served as the public face for the administration's handling of immigration since March, when Biden assigned her to head the government's efforts to slow migration at the border by addressing root causes in Central American countries.

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In June, during her first trip to the US-Mexico border since taking office, Harris called for an end to the political "rhetoric" and "infighting" over immigration. The stop in El Paso, Texas, comes three weeks after she visited Guatemala on her first foreign trip and sparked criticism for telling migrants "do not come" to the US.

In May, June, and July, Insider asked seven immigration experts to give the administration a report card-style grade on its handling of the issue so far.

Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee's U.S./Mexico Border Program:

Grade: D

Why:

Rios told Insider a "good percentage" of his low grade is due to the administration's ongoing retainment of Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic emergency rule used to rapidly turn away migrants with the exception of unaccompanied minors. It's policy experts said played a massive role in the increased number of children crossing the border earlier this year.

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The months-long continuation of Title 42 has surprised many immigration advocates, who expected the administration to reopen the pathway for asylum seekers.

"There are people that have died in attempts to cross into the US or have been placed in precarious situations," Rios said.

Rios also criticized the administration's lack of clarity for communities that have been impacted by construction on border wall projects through land confiscation and damage.

What the administration can do better:

First and foremost, Rios wants to see Title 42 ended, and soon.

Beyond that, he's concerned about what he sees as a push by the administration for infrastructure known as "smart" or "intelligent" borders, as an alternative to natural physical borders - a proposal included in the immigration bill Biden sent to Congress earlier this year detailing his commitment to "modernize" the immigration system.

"I think Biden's commitment to this type of border enforcement is troubling for me," he said. "So I would like to see a rejection of adopting intelligent technology for enforcement without there really having been an analysis or discernment about how these type of tools can wreak havoc."

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a metal fence: A US Customs and Border Protection agent stands guard on the US side of the US-Mexico border fence. PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images © PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images A US Customs and Border Protection agent stands guard on the US side of the US-Mexico border fence. PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Carlos Rojas Rodriguez, longtime immigration organizer who Biden told to "vote for Trump"

Grade: F

Why:

"When Biden was running for office, there was a concern within the immigrant rights movement, to see how much he would distance himself from the Obama administration legacy of mass deportation," Rojas Rodriguez told Insider.

"We had nice rhetoric and terrible practices, and with Biden so far, when the rubber meets the road what we are seeing is disappointment and disappointment."

On the campaign trail, Rojas Rodriguez challenged Biden during a question and answer period asking if he would commit to a full deportation moratorium, which Biden rejected, and later told Rojas Rodriguez to, "vote for Trump."

Rojas Rodriguez told Insider that that moment and Harris' "moment of honesty," in Guatemala have also defined the failures and priorities of the administration on immigration. Rojas Rodriguez added that for "low-hanging fruit," like raising the refugee cap from the previous administration, it took movement and political pressure for the administration to increase it.

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What the administration can do better:

Rojas Rodriguez told Insider that the administration should make clear its legislative priorities, use reconciliation as a tool on immigration, and include a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants currently in the US.

He stressed that 9 out of 10 farmworkers are undocumented and many more have been essential workers before and throughout the pandemic, and the Biden administration has a strong opportunity to make an impact honoring that reality.

Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project

Grade: N/A

Why:

Gelernt declined to give the administration a grade, but said overall, the administration has done "very well" on immigration with one notable exception: the border. In particular, Gelernt criticized the continued existence of Title 42 for families and adults.

"We have never believed Title 42 policy is lawful or humane or was necessary as a public health measure," Gelernt told Insider. "We are deeply troubled that the Biden administration has retained that policy and I think that the retention of the Title 42 policy for families is a significant blemish on the administration's immigration work.

In January, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the expulsion of asylum seekers under Title 42. In the months following, the administration and ACLU held negotiations in the case. Gelernt was unable to discuss certain concessions made by the government thus far but did say the two sides agreed on a Title 42 exemption for particularly vulnerable families.

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On June 8, the administration and the nonprofit agreed to another advance in the lawsuit until June 18, but Gelernt warned that an imminent timetable is necessary.

"In the next coming days, we're going to have to see a timeline for ending Title 42 very soon or we're going back to court."

What the administration can do better:

Gelernt said he was pleased to see Harris's focus on addressing the root causes of migration during her trip to Guatemala earlier this month.

"As the VP acknowledged, people do not want to pick up and leave their home countries...separate their families if they don't have to," Gelernt said. "So, if we can eliminate the violence in those countries as well as the other problems...then I think we will see less migration."

But ultimately, fixing root causes in Central America is a long-term solution. In the meantime, the US must allow asylum seekers to enter the country and make their claims, Gelernt said.

"I was very disappointed to hear her continue the administration's message of telling people not to come," he said. "We cannot be telling people to stay home no matter how much danger they're in."

Gelernt emphasized the US's decades-long duty to accept asylum seekers and encouraged the administration to, instead, send a message that highlights that commitment.

"The [Biden] administration has done an enormous amount of good and has eliminated most of the Trump administration's restrictive and unlawful immigration," he said.

"But if we eliminate the opportunity to see asylum for very much longer, we are going to do real damage to the country's historic commitment," Gelernt added.

a group of people sitting in a chair talking on a cell phone: Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station after being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images © John Moore/Getty Images Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station after being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images

Roberto Lopez and Laura Peña, TX Civil Rights Project

Grade: D/F

Why:

"On the border wall alone, it's been a failure," Lopez told Insider.

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He mentioned that several of the organization's clients, including the Cavazos family, have had their lands seized for border wall construction through carryover eminent domain cases from the Trump administration. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to withdraw from those types of lawsuits and promised that "not one more inch," of the border wall would be built.

Lopez and Pena added that the maintaining of Title 42 at the border was a major issue. In terms of the Remain in Mexico policy, they commended the administration for ending it "in name," and later promising that people whose cases were closed could re-apply. The test, they said, is how the Biden administration will process people who fell through the cracks due to Trump-era asylum policies.

What the administration can do better:

They said the administration should withdraw from all imminent domain border cases, and return lands seized already. Both added that the administration must rescind Title 42.

Bob Carey, former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under Obama-Biden admin

Grade: B/B+

Why:

"There needs to be an element of realistic appraisal in terms of what has been achievable in this timeframe," Carey told Insider, adding that he wouldn't give the administration a pass on its border policy so far.

"People see the optics of immigration through the border, but closing down the border is not an appropriate response," he added.

Carey added that in his view, he wouldn't say that the Biden administration has failed because there is still a rebuilding of humanitarian and legal representational capacity at the border and across immigration agencies that the administration needs time to adequately carry out.

What the administration can do better:

Strengthening the asylum system so that it is safe, orderly, and transparent. Carey's biggest qualm had to do with messaging and transparency.

"Things have been communicated inconsistently, it's important that there be an all-of-government approach on immigration. "Do not come," can be interpreted as, we don't have an asylum policy, or the border is closed," Carey told Insider.

Carey mentioned that the flip-flopping on the refugee cap was another example of a poorly-fleshed-out message and goal. He told Insider that going forward, the Biden administration needs to prioritize a multi-pronged approach and foster a "broadly-engaged humanitarian commitment" on immigration in a bipartisan way.

a group of people posing for the camera: Vice President Kamala Harris and Guatemala's Minister of Foreign Affairs Pedro Brolo wave at her arrival ceremony in Guatemala City, Sunday, June 6, 2021, at Guatemalan Air Force Central Command. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin © AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Vice President Kamala Harris and Guatemala's Minister of Foreign Affairs Pedro Brolo wave at her arrival ceremony in Guatemala City, Sunday, June 6, 2021, at Guatemalan Air Force Central Command. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Oliver Merino, coordinator for Immigration Legal Resource Center

Grade: F

Why:

Merino said there have been plenty of disappointments stemming from promises made on the campaign trail and felt that the page hasn't been turned from the Trump administration on immigration.

"The comments that VP Harris made in Guatemala, honestly could have come from an official in the Trump administration, almost word for word, and they could have come from the Obama administration as well," Merino told Insider.

Merino's low mark also related to the maintaining of Title 42 border closures and the ongoing deportations despite a promised deportation moratorium. He added that the recent budget included increases for CBP and detention, and said that on the legislative side, the administration so far has not prioritized immigration bills.

What the administration can do better:

Merino said that the administration should immediately rescind Title 42 as a start. Merino added that the administration should also clarify its priorities for deportation, which were updated in a late May ICE memo.

Vicki Gaubeca, Director of Southern Border Communities Coalition:

Grade: B-

Why:

"I think I'd give them a B- only because the intent to create a humanitarian, efficient process is there," Gaubeca said. "The minus would come from them just not figuring out how to do that quickly and correctly, I'd say."

Gaubeca criticized the administration for relying too heavily on US Customs and Border Patrol, an agency she said operates exclusively through a law enforcement lens with no humanitarian considerations.

But from her perspective, the Biden administration's approach to immigration thus far has already been a massive improvement from the Trump Administration's method, and she's optimistic about the future.

"We're not where we want to be, but at least we're not where we used to be," she said.

What the administration can do better:

Gaubeca had several recommendations for how the administration can improve its handling of immigration and the border: lift Title 42; connect with non-governmental immigration organizations on the ground and make sure they're adequately resourced; and shift away from a law enforcement approach to managing the border.

"Ultimately...continue to push for a just and fair immigration reform that is not tied to more border security," Gaubeca said.

"Immigrants actually strengthen our nation," she added. "We need to figure out a way to do that that also protects human rights and dignity of people that will ultimately be useful for us."

Read the original article on Business Insider

South Dakota DOE removed Indigenous topics from social studies standards before final draft .
Before the South Dakota Department of Education released a draft of new social studies standards last week, it took out more than a dozen references to education on the Oceti Sakowin. © Erin Bormett / Argus Leader Department of Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson speaks at a Rotary meeting about the future of K-12 education on Monday, August 2, 2021. “Oceti Sakowin” refers collectively to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people who are indigenous to South Dakota and surrounding states. This is according to a draft of the standards dated July 26 obtained by the Argus Leader.

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