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Hispanic Democrats look to sweet-talk administration on immigration

The Biden administration’s recent moves on immigration have earned it goodwill among Hispanic Democrats steeped in the issue, even as tensions with local jurisdictions over shelter space bubble up.

Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) are touting the administration’s actions, such as granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to more than 400,000 Venezuelans, while publicly airing proposals to course-correct on specific issues.

CHC members are walking that tightrope for multiple reasons: because they’ve gotten results from the administration, because migration and border security are politically risky issues for Democrats and because executive action is currently the only realistic avenue for relief for immigrant communities.

“They have other considerations to juggle at this time. The election of course, it’s impossible for them not to keep that top of mind,” said Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), who in the past has butted heads with his party over immigration.

“With respect to the administration, I think they are listening. I think they’re paying attention. It is important to note that we’re focusing on executive action, because there are barely any Republicans in Congress that are seriously interested in immigration reform at this time and, I mean, they’ve been captivated by the Trump-slash-MAGA forces.”

The catch-flies-with-honey approach also comes as House Republicans have boiled down their top action items to three: sharp budget cuts, legislating border policy and conditioning Ukraine aid.

Over the weekend, Republicans were able to cut Ukraine aid from a short-term budget deal to keep spending levels essentially flat, but they dropped demands to insert provisions that would upend President Biden’s entire border strategy.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sunday told “Face The Nation” those border provisions are his priority, and he linked them to Ukraine aid.

“Now, I support being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need, but I firmly support the border first. So we’ve got to find a way that we can do this together,” said McCarthy.

Even before the Speaker’s surprise moves over the weekend to keep the government open, CHC members made a point of backing the White House, touting the group’s recent wins.

“Most of the successes have been using the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to advocate with the administration on executive action, and there’s been a lot of it lately,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.).

Soto defended the administration’s timing on executive actions on immigration, even as in the past the White House and CHC have been at loggerheads over the speed of policy changes.

“They have to be methodical. This isn’t just the president’s opinion, you need to have findings through the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, so they weren’t going to promise anything until they conducted the findings about the status of Venezuela, which is a dictatorship in collapse,” said Soto.

“So I would argue they were doing their job by the book, which is to resist calls until they show the evidence. They have to review the evidence, and then once they had it, they made announcements.”

Still, the White House is far from checking all the boxes in the CHC’s list of demands, which are likely to keep coming, even if they are worded politely.

The demands range from the very targeted to the ground-shaking.

At the policy tweak end of the spectrum are requests such as a return to cash bonds for immigration detainees.

A group of 24 Democrats led by García and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) last week led a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking him to reverse course on a new program to post bonds electronically.

That request follows some complaints that the Department of Homeland Security’s signature border appointment app, CBP One, made it harder for the most vulnerable migrants to access the Biden administration’s legal pathways to entry.

“It’s not realistic. It doesn’t take into account the conditions that individuals in custody, their families are dealing with,” said García.

On the other side of the spectrum are growing concerns that longtime undocumented immigrants are being passed over as new asylum-seekers and parolees get work permits, at least temporarily.

The administration is facing increasing pressure to aggressively use its parole powers to fast-track a path to legalization for those immigrants, particularly farm workers and “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors.

Still, the CHC is focusing its criticism on the GOP, which seeks to include elements of its H.R.2 bill in future spending bills, threatening to dismantle the core of Biden’s border policies, including parts that Democrats and many advocates say are actually working.

“I think they’re being unrealistic, and it’ll cause more chaos at the border … and there was a lot of pushback to have asylum-seekers and parole-seekers come to ports of entry, but it just created a more orderly process. So they could try to [kill it] but it’s at the peril of the nation,” said Soto.

Source: The Hill

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