A Bipartisan Bill on Border Security and Immigration Emerges in the House

A recent poll found that President Biden and congressional Republicans enjoyed an identical approval rating of 37 percent.

AP/Rebecca Blackwell, file
Representative Maria Elvira Salazar speaks at a Republican campaign rally at West Miami, Florida, October 19, 2022. AP/Rebecca Blackwell, file

A bipartisan group of House legislators announced Tuesday their intent to try something Congress hasn’t managed to pull off in nearly four decades — reform the politically toxic and tangled mess that is America’s immigration system.

Representatives María Elvira Salazar, a Cuban American Republican of South Florida, and Veronica Escobar, a Democrat of South Texas who is co-chairwoman of President Biden’s re-election campaign, announced the 500-page Dignity Act, which they say would, among other things, cut visa backlogs, overhaul asylum processing, funnel billions of dollars into border security, and provide a clear path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

“Two members of Congress — one Democrat, one Republican — have decided to work on one of the most divisive topics in this country: immigration. Who wants to do that? Very few people. But we’re doing it,” Ms. Salazar said at a press conference on Capitol Hill announcing the bill.

The measure is co-sponsored by Republicans of Oregon and New York, Democrats of North Carolina and Michigan, as well as the delegate of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer González-Colón.

The effort comes following recent polling suggesting that Americans are dissatisfied with both parties on immigration amid the crisis at the border, which is somewhat more subdued than it was just a few weeks ago.

Despite what both elected officials and the press believed would be a surge in migration following the end of a pandemic-era mass expulsion provision, Title 42, the number of migrants arriving daily at the border has roughly halved since the provision expired on May 11.

According to reporting from NBC, much of this decrease is attributable to the migrants facing a five-year ban from entering America if they are deported under another immigration rule, Title 8, as a result of not following the proper procedure for entering the country.

Whether this relative decrease in migration will hold through the campaign season isn’t clear. What is clear is that, despite the Democrats’ victory lap, voters still disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of the situation. They also disapprove of congressional Republicans’ handling of immigration matters.

The survey, conducted by CBS News and YouGov, found that Mr. Biden and congressional Republicans enjoy an identical disapproval rating on their handling of the southern border, with 63 percent disapproving of the situation and 37 percent approving. The survey of 2,188 American adults had a margin of error of plus or minus three points.

In general, Americans tended to favor tougher restrictions for crossing the border, with 58 percent backing them, 20 percent thinking it should be easier to cross, and 22 percent thinking the situation is being handled “right.”

The group most critical of the situation at the border is Republicans, with 66 percent thinking the situation is a crisis and 18 percent thinking it is “very serious.” Another 12 percent reported feeling it is “somewhat serious.”

The survey suggests that, though Republicans have been the most verbose critics of American border policy in recent decades, voters don’t appear to trust them any more than they do the Democrats to handle the issue.

Ms. Escobar suggested in an interview with Politico that Republicans have refused to “acknowledge their own role” in inaction on the border. “In fact, many of the people complaining the loudest about what’s happening at the border have been in Congress the longest and have done nothing on this issue,” Ms. Escobar said.

House Republicans passed a border security bill earlier this month but did not make an effort to find a compromise that could pass the Democratic Senate, in part because the House members could not agree on an immigration policy within their own conference.

While many members of the Republican House conference, including Speaker McCarthy, have made trips to the border this year, few have pursued common ground between Democrats and Republicans in an effort to deal practically with the issue.

Ms. Salazar and Ms. Escobar say they are willing to buck the leadership of their respective parties to get their measure through Congress. The last time Congress attempted to tackle immigration reform, 10 years ago, a measure passed by the Democratic-led Senate died in the Republican-led House. The last time Congress successfully passed an immigration bill was 1986.

“We understand that we are trying to open the Red Sea,” Ms. Salazar said in an interview with the Washington Post. “But someone has to try it. Moses did it. Maybe we can do it a second time.”

The New York Sun

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