Ahead of President Biden’s first-ever visit to the southern border, both the president and top members of his administration have renewed calls for a sweeping immigration bill that includes a mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants despite it being a non-starter for many Republicans.
Biden unveiled a number of border measures, including an expanded parole program for certain nationalities combined with Title 42 expulsions for those countries. But he said that by itself wasn’t enough to solve the crisis and called on Congress to act.
He was acknowledging that the country was facing a massive challenge with migration with more than 2.3 million encounters in fiscal year 2022 and with fiscal 2023 on track to outpace last year’s historic numbers.
“The actions we’re announcing today will make things better — will make things better but will not fix the border problem completely. There’s more that has to be done, and I laid that out in the first week I was here,” he said.
He was referring to a proposal introduced in early 2021, which includes at its center an 8-year path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. It would also grant immediate green cards to certain types of illegal immigrants, including those protected by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The bill also makes a number of other changes to immigration processing, including setting up refugee processing centers in Central America and efforts to target root causes in Central America. It would also include the opening of a number of additional legal pathways for immigration.
The bill was introduced early in 2021 but failed almost immediately as it became clear that few, if any, Republicans were prepared to back an amnesty proposal at a time when the migrant crisis was raging at the southern border.
Democrats eventually went it alone using the budget reconciliation process, but they were thwarted in those efforts too.
As the border crisis accelerated in 2022 and political pressure has only grown with Republicans blaming Biden administration policies for the surge, the administration has kept pushing the proposal and calling on Congress to again pass it.
“When we first came into office, the first bill we proposed was for a pathway to citizenship, was to fix a broken immigration system that was broken under the previous administration,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in October.
“Participate in the solution because we are offering solutions.”
This week, that push has again been renewed with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas specifically calling for the proposal to be passed as a fix to the border’s migrant woes while touting an added bonus of it helping with a reported labor shortage.
“On the very first day in office, President Biden sent to the Hill, to Congress, a comprehensive package that would have meant so much to our ability to really manage the situation at the border, to really bring a broken immigration system that hasn’t been reformed for decades, to really bring it into the present day, not just from a point of view of enforcement, but also realizing the opportunities that immigration brings to our country,” Mayorkas said of the bill.
Mayorkas went on to claim the need for labor in the U.S. is “so great.”
“We have 10 million job openings in the United States,” he said. “I was reading about what Canada is doing to address a million open jobs. They’re bringing in about 1.3 million migrants to fill that labor need that cannot be met within their own borders. President Biden sent forward a comprehensive package on day one. It has not occurred yet.
“We haven’t realized the reform that everyone understands is so desperately needed,” Mayorkas added. “I’m an undying optimist, and we’re going to stay true to the fight to pass reform that our country needs and from which our country will prosper.”
Again on Thursday, the administration said in a fact sheet the problems at the border can only be solved “if Republicans in Congress who have spent the past two years talking about border security quit blocking the comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office and opposing the billions of dollars in additional funds the President has requested for border security and management.”
That was a call renewed by Biden, who attempted to put the ball in Republicans’ court.
“That work will not be done unless and until the Congress enacts and funds a more comprehensive immigration plan that I proposed on day one,” Biden said.
It’s a push that has received criticism from former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, who called the effort “dishonest.”
“Biden keeps talking about Republicans or members of Congress won’t help. What they are advocating for is amnesty,” Wolf argued on Fox News’ “Outnumbered.” “It’s disingenuous. It’s dishonest. And I get fired up over that because it’s not going to solve the issue.”
Fox News’ Elizabeth Heckman contributed to this report.