A terrible anti-immigration policy went back into effect today
“Nobody is making [immigration] a priority, but everybody’s using it as a symbol.” Plus: A t-shirt that makes a statement.
Most of the focus in Washington this week is on passing President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, lifting the borrowing limit so the Treasury Department can pay our bills beyond the next couple of weeks and funding the Defense Department for the next year.
Immigration reform is another issue with less spotlight than the president’s jobs and families plan or the national debt and military spending. But it has as many implications on the immediate quality of life on our undocumented friends, next year’s congressional midterm elections and Biden’s hopes for reelection two years later. And today was the first page in the next chapter of Biden’s immigration legacy.
The Department of Homeland Security resumed the Migrant Protection Protocols, a controversial Trump-era policy that returns certain asylum-seekers to Mexico to wait through the duration of their cases pending in the US immigration court system.
“I think you can judge the morals and ethics of a society by the way they treat the most vulnerable members of their communities,” Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti, Ph.D., dean of the college of arts & sciences at California Lutheran University, said to told me during a phone interview. “The folks that we are impacting with this policy are not really seen as part of our society. And people act as if the folks that are being directly impacted can somehow be put in a bubble and that there won’t be unintended consequences that ripple out across our society. That’s a problem.”
The Trump administration said the “remain in Mexico” program was designed to discourage asylum seekers but immigration activists and advocates said it denied people due process and forced them to wait in dangerous border cities where they lacked access to health care and humanitarian aid and were at risk of being victimized by violence.
President Biden suspended the program on his first day in office and Homeland Security ended it in June. But in an unsigned order in August, the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump appointees, ruled in a 6–3 decision that the Biden administration likely violated federal law in the process and ordered that the policy be reinstated.
According to DHS, returns will take place at seven ports of entry along the border. And in a move that runs counter to the White House’s public opposition to the policy, Homeland Security guidance says people from any country in the Western Hemisphere — Haiti, for example — other than Mexico are subject to placement in MPP. (The Trump policy only returned people from Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil.)
A statement from DHS said Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas believes “MPP has endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and failed to address the root causes of irregular migration.”
And during her daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the same. “It is not our preference to be reimplementing and reinstituting [MPP],” she said. “We have put into place a number of changes from the Department of Homeland security to improve some humanitarian components but we still feel that the program is inefficient, inhuman and we did not eagerly reimplement it.”
This is a message though that’s struggled to break through the mainstream to less-engaged observers who could assume today’s move was at the direction of the president. “This is a communications issue,” Lavariega Monforti said. “But I think in many ways that has been sort of one of the Achilles heels of this administration overall on key issues.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment when asked if it agreed with this characterization.
Messaging aside, what often gets lost in these discussions is the human element. Lavariega Monforti explained that the way immigration has worked since the 1960s is that we have chain migration. “So that means most immigrant families are mixed status. That means people who are US citizens will have family members that are caught up in this policy. We have economics that will be caught up in this policy. We have children who will be caught up in this policy,” she said. “And so even though the Biden process by offering COVID vaccines or changing the way that people are housed, the bottom line is that this policy has a direct negative impact on US-citizen lives and lives abroad.”
That’s a shame because immigration reform is actually one of the issues Americans agree on. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 70 percent of American adults said legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its present level or be increased. And virtually this same figure expressed sympathy towards undocumented immigrants. “So this is really about politics,” Lavariega Monforti said. “This is about members of Congress not truly understanding — or maybe even caring — about their constituents’s wants or desires.”
Earlier this month, a group of five House Democrats sent a letter signed by 91 of their colleagues urging Senate Democratic Leaders to reinstate a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act. (They’ve already tried twice but were blocked by the parliamentarian, who decides what the Senate can and cannot pass under the legislative process Senate Democrats are using to pass BBB without any Republican support.) And tomorrow, five of these members will be joined by immigration advocates from across the nation to do the same.
But the political posturing within and between parties has left voters cynical that anything will actually get done though. Lavariega Monforti agrees, telling me that Democrats and the Biden administration are using immigrants and immigration as a political football just like the Republicans have. “They have also lost sight of the human impact of the decisions that they’re making and frankly the decision not to make this a priority,” she said. “That’s really the only problem is that nobody is making is a priority but everybody’s using it as a symbol.”
As with voting rights, it’s easy to disengage from the political process as an act of self-preservation when anti-immigrant policies like "remain in Mexico” are allowed to stand.
But Lavariega Monforti said pro-immigration voters should take a page out of the Republican playbook is get on and stick to a message that connects with a broad coalition. “Run for office. Be the change you want to see in your community. Start local. Talk about these issues. Normalize talking about these issues as core American values,” she said. “Let your elected know where you stand. It’s very easy to type up a form letter and get every one of your friends that live in your area to send that letter to Congress.”
And if you’re an undocumented creator or have a loved one affected by this policy, know that you have more allies than you think you do. “In today’s society, there is a vast difference between what our communities want and what our government is doing.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden received his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris this morning. Then he spoke about how the Build Back Better Act will lower prescription drug prices.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tue 7 Dec: The president will hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin to share his concerns with Russia’s military activities on the border of Ukraine, which jeopardize the US’s interests in Ukraine transitioning to a democracy with a market economy.
Wed 8 Dec: Biden will travel to Kansas City, Missouri to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Thu 9 Dec–Fri 10 Dec: The president will host the virtual Summit for Democracy and deliver opening and closing remarks. The summit assembles over 100 participants, representing governments, civil society and private sector leaders.
The House was not in session today.
The Senate met this afternoon to debate the nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also reaffirmed his goal in a letter to Senators of passing the Build Back Better Act and to the president's desk before Christmas. (This is a super ambitious undertaking considering the Senate’s version of the bill would still have to pass the House and there are other legislative priorities with harder deadlines than BBB.)
In The Know
As of today, the Omicron variant has been detected in 17 states. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN Sunday. “But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to Delta.”(Jonathan Corum and Carl Zimmer / NYT)
The US is expected this week to announce a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, which would escalate tensions with China. If this happens, US government officials would skip the event but American athletes could still compete. (Kaitlan Collins / CNN)
Flags are at half-staff across the federal government and military facilities to honor former Republican Sen. and former presidential candidate Bob Dole. Dole’s foundation announced this weekend that he passed away at age 98. (The White House)
DOJ filed a suit against Texas over the state’s plan to redraw its voting districts alleging the new map would discriminate against Black and Latino voters. Texas reduced the number of districts with a Hispanic voting majority from eight to seven, while the number of districts with Black residents as the majority of eligible voters drops from one to zero. (Alexa Ura / Texas Tribune)
Democratic Lt. Gov. Molly Gray of Vermont announced that she is running to fill the US seat Peter Welch is vacating in a bid for the US Senate. Welch hopes to replace Sen. Patrick Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate, who announced his retirement last month. (Mychael Schnell / The Hill)
Seven civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, National Urban League and Color For Change, sent Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer calling on the chamber to pass the Build Back Better Act. The legislation passed the House last month and would extend the Child Tax Credit, a provision from Biden’s coronavirus stimulus plan that has cut child poverty in half and will expire on Dec. 31. (Katherine Tully-McManus / Politico)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a vaccine mandate for all private employers, effective Dec. 27. In an interview with MSNBC, he described the requirement as a “pre-emptive strike” to prevent another wave of coronavirus cases and help reduce transmission during the winter months and holiday gatherings. (Emma G. Fitzsimmons / NYT)
Three more Christian missionaries held in Haiti for over a month were released. 16 US citizens and one Canadian were kidnapped by a gang after a trip to visit the orphanage. Two other hostages — an American husband and wife — were freed several weeks ago due to illness. (Jacqueline Charles / Miami Herald)
DoorDash hired 60 couriers as full-time employees starting at $15/hour, plus customer tips, to launch a fast grocery delivery service in New York. The move marks a shift from its exploitative gig worker model and is partly motivated by the need for delivery drivers to be available at the warehouse before an order is placed. (Dave Lee / Financial Times)
T-Mobile and Verizon are under fire for denying rebates used to promote Apple’s newest iPhone, iPads and watches.“We are never happy to hear that any of our customers are having a poor experience,” T-Mobile told Bloomberg in a statement. “We are going to collaborate with our partners to do better and work to make any needed improvements in the overall offer experience.” (Mark Gurman / Bloomberg)
WhatsApp will now let people set all chats to disappear by default. You can choose to delete them after 24 hours, one week or three months. (Jon Porter / The Verge)
Sex workers creators want OnlyFans to establish safety standards for collaborations. This is because creators on the subscription app don’t always adhere to regular testing for sexually transmitted infections or to legal agreements that traditional porn production companies facilitate. (Morgan Sung / NBC News)
Every single costume on last night’s episode of Insecure — from clothing to accessories to shoes — was designed by a Black woman. “I thought it could be really interesting to devoted one episode that was so focused on this friendship to celebrate Black women and make it a really intentional experience,” costume designer Shiona Turini said. (Yohana Desta / Vanity Fair)
Allyship is Dictionary.com’s word of the year for 2021. “It might be a surprising choice for some,” managing editor John Kelly told The Associated Press ahead of tomorrow’s unveiling. “In the past few decades, the term has evolved to take on a more nuanced and specific meaning. It is continuing to evolve and we saw that in many ways.”
Read All About It
Amanda Mull on Peloton. Ben Smith on how TikTok reads your mind. Christopher Palmeri on Britney Spears. Peggy McGlone on how museums for tragedies like 9/11 are attempting to connect with visitors who are too young to remember. Sabrina Weiss on the genetic link between good guide dogs. Liza Featherstone on Josh Hawley and the Republican obsession with manliness. Andrew C. McKevitt on gun capitalism. Steven Petrow on how to fight loneliness. Erin Aubry Kaplan on how to create a Black space in a gentrifying neighborhood. Merritt Tierce on the abortion she didn’t have. Paul Krugman on how saboteurs took over the GOP. Alan Sytsma on life without cream cheese. David Wallace-Wells on the Omicron variant’s arrival to a country that may be less well-vaccinated than we thought. Rebecca Traister on the betrayal of Roe. Jerusalem Demsas on why rent control is a good idea — even if it won't fix the housing crisis. Grace Segars on Chuck Schumer’s daunting quest to “restore the Senate”. Rachel Sugar on how the Omicron variant could affect indoor dining in NYC. Daniel Trainor on Porsha Williams, who is ready for life beyond Housewives. Josef Adalian on if HBO Max won the year 2021. Ed Kilgore on Mitch McConnell’s 2022 midterms strategy. Eugene Robinson on why school shootings can’t be the price of freedom. Alexa Juliana Ard on the women changing their names because of Amazon’s voice assistant. Daniel Strauss on why GOP extremism is such a tough sell for Democrats to make to less-engaged swing voters. Elamin Abdelmahmoud on why Will Smith keeps revealing too much. Paul McLeod on how Obamacare taught Democrats to design childcare programs Republicans can’t say no to. Jamilah King on the new safety measures Black activists are taking to defend against digital and physical threats. Kelly Pau on Spotify Wrapped. Charlie Warzel on the end of the second internet. James D. Walsh in conversation with Scott Galloway on how former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey failed the app.
Camila Tapia T-Shirt ($25): “While the media has shifted attention away from the Black Lives Matter movement, the problems that incited the protests are still there, unaddressed by our government,” Camila Tapia-Guilliams, the first-place winner in the 25-to-28-year-old category of Common Cause’s 2021 Artivism Contest, said. “Namely, the systemic racism in our injustice system means that no matter who you are, if you are Black, you are in danger of police brutality and harsher punitive sentences than white people.”
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Be kind to yourself and I’ll see you in the next post!