McConnell suggests he'll hold immigration bill hostage over fake border crisis

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Americans, meanwhile, want Republicans to work with President Joe Biden to accomplish his agenda.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled his intention to obstruct immigration legislation that could assist "Dreamers" — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — over a border "crisis" that experts say doesn't actually exist.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing his Department of Homeland Security to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program first implemented during the Obama administration to protect Dreamers — so named for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act — from deportation. Donald Trump had tried to revoke the program in 2017, but was met with resistance and was ultimately overruled by the Supreme Court in June 2020.

The DREAM Act, effectively a legislative version of Obama's deportation protections, has been introduced in Congress on multiple occasions since the early 2000s, as have similar bills intended to protect undocumented people, and has made some headway but has never passed the Senate, despite the fact that the majority of Americans support legal protections for Dreamers.

In March, the House passed the most recent version of the DREAM bill, called the American Dream and Promise Act. But on Tuesday, McConnell suggested the bill, which was already facing GOP resistance in the evenly split Senate, was set to fail, despite Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress.

The Senate minority leader specifically implied he would block the legislation, which also addresses a slate of other immigration issues, unless Democrats also addressed the rise in immigration and asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexico border, something he and other Republicans have deemed a "crisis."

"Well, all I can tell you is that everybody is sympathetic with the DACA issue," McConnell said.

Still, he said, "I can't imagine that we would take up an immigration-related bill, no matter how worthy it might be ... without insistence on our part that we address the obvious crisis at the border."

But experts say no such crisis exists.

"We analyzed monthly U.S. Customs and Border Protection data from 2012 through February and found no clear evidence that the overall increase in border crossings in 2021 can be attributed to Biden administration policies. Rather, the current increase fits a pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020s coronavirus border closure," experts from the University of California at San Diego wrote for the Washington Post in March.

Other experts have said the GOP's use of "crisis" messaging is little more than a political effort to undermine the current administration.

"Republicans want to say it's a crisis because if you say it's a crisis that means a Democratic administration has a crisis on its hands and what it's doing. They can bludgeon the administration," Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center, told U.S. News & World Report.

She continued, "The administration uses that terminology and says, 'We can't handle it,' and that also has political implications. So that is a completely political messaging battle. It is about Republicans wanting to tar the Biden administration and the Biden administration not wanting to play into that."

Andrew Selee, president of Migration Policy Institute, told the outlet, "It is a popular issue on which to get the president in power. So I think a lot of this is political posturing."

Furthermore, Customs and Border Protection officials have already begun making progress in addressing any rise in the number of unaccompanied immigrant children in U.S. custody.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody recently fell below 1,400 according to April 25 data from DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services — and the number of children being transferred out of Customs and Border Protection custody jumped from 507 in March to 667 in April.

As CNN noted on April 12, government data showed the overall number of unaccompanied minors in border custody dropped 45% between March and April.

Polls show that many Americans are in favor of Republicans working with Biden to accomplish his goals, suggesting McConnell's stonewalling may be a negative strategy.

A Global Strategy Group/Immigration Hub survey released on March 24 found that by a 62% to 25% margin, voters want GOP lawmakers to work with Biden. And voters see Republicans as blocking Biden from taking action on immigration instead of working with the president on bipartisan solutions by a margin of 47% to 23%, respectively.

"[Voters] clearly support President Biden's solutions on the border and see Republicans as only working to block what the President is trying to do, opening up a vulnerability for conservatives should they continue to obstruct at every turn," Nick Gourevitch, managing director of the group behind the survey, said in a statement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.