NBC: Democrats urge Biden to act on immigration as Trump threatens deportations

By Julie Tsirkin

Immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to prioritize long-term undocumented immigrants as his administration weighs executive actions to curb record crossings along the southern border.

In a letter signed by more than 80 lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Hispanic and Progressive caucuses, the Democrats ask Biden to “take all available actions to streamline pathways to lawful status for undocumented immigrants” ahead of the November election.

“Deporting all such individuals — as former President Donald Trump has threatened to do if reelected — would devastate the American economy and destroy American families,” they added.

The letter offers concrete steps they say the White House could take, including streamlining the process by which DACA recipients, or immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, can seek to change to a nonimmigrant status.

Lawmakers also ask Biden to unify families by allowing undocumented migrants married to U.S. citizens to seek parole on a case-by-case basis and reduce processing times for green card cases so that those migrants could be eligible to work.

The chair of the Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., said in a statement that Biden “should seize this critical moment by exercising his Executive Authority to rebuild our broken immigration system.”

“We urge him to provide pathways to citizenship and protections for the millions of long-term undocumented residents who have contributed to the rich fabric of the United States,” she said.

The new push follows a letter in March from Senate Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, of Illinois, and Immigration Subcommittee Chair Alex Padilla, of California, outlining the same call to action.

”As the Biden administration considers executive actions on immigration, we must not return to failed Trump-era policies aimed at banning asylum and moving us backwards,” Padilla told NBC News in a statement.

On Monday, NBC News reported that Biden is considering using his executive authority in the coming weeks to potentially restrict the number of migrants who can enter the U.S.

The administration has been in touch with immigration advocacy groups ahead of any executive order.

A Department of Homeland Security official with knowledge of the discussions said the White House would most likely invoke power reserved for the president in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows a president discretion over who is admitted into the U.S.

Under that authority, Customs and Border Protection would be directed to block the entry of migrants crossing over from Mexico if daily border crossings passed a certain threshold. It’s similar to a provision of the border bill negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators earlier this year, which was killed by Republicans, in part, at Trump’s urging.

Advocates are worried that the policy would be too restrictive on asylum, as are some Democrats who opposed the bill in February and called for a legal pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. to be included in the text.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus lobbied the administration over months to no avail, with Democratic leadership eventually giving up its long-held red line on immigration reform to unlock aid to Ukraine amid a Republican blockade.

The GOP rejected the bipartisan compromise regardless, effectively sinking all near-term prospects for Congress to tackle an issue that has plagued the U.S. government for years.

Nonetheless, Padilla said this is Biden’s “opportunity” to “provide relief for the long-term immigrants of this nation.”

Padilla is leading a news conference Wednesday afternoon with lawmakers and advocates from FWD.us, American Families United, UnidosUS and CASA to spotlight the letter to Biden.

The president of FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group, said in a statement that most Americans “don’t have the opportunity to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of American families — but President Biden does.”

”He has the legal authority to provide affirmative relief to the spouses of U.S. citizens, and other longtime undocumented community members,” Todd Schulte said. “We hope, and believe, he will act soon to protect these American families.”

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