Originally published in Arizona Republic.
Title 42 is an aberration. There are better solutions to restore the asylum system without wrecking border communities.
In recent years, we’ve seen the results of an ongoing pandemic and increased partisan polarization set the stage for what may be the fiercest immigration debate we’ve seen in some time.
Title 42 is an aberration. It is a weaponized Trump-era “health policy” disguised to prevent the legal entry of migrants due to the pandemic. In truth, it is a nativist effort to stop the entry of migrants fleeing persecution and violence from their legal right to seek asylum under U.S. law.
Now that President Biden has finally taken the critical and long overdue step of repealing the Trump-era Title 42, policymakers must now weigh economic, security and humanitarian concerns with our values and act.
We have a roadmap for the southern border
Republicans continue to decry the lifting of Title 42 despite inaction on immigration for decades. Recently, Republican politicians in Arizona and Texas have described immigration as “invasions” while their Republican counterparts in Congress continue to stonewall comprehensive immigration reform efforts, play the political blame game, waste money on a useless border wall and propose restrictionist policies.
Playing politics: Arizona is busing migrants out of the state to Washington, D.C.
On the other hand, Democrats, time and again, have provided meaningful legal avenues and resources, through Build Back Better and other legislative efforts, to fix our nation’s outdated immigration system, improve border management, keep families together and strengthen our economy.
Just recently, my Congressional Hispanic Caucus colleagues urged President Biden to pursue an executive action agenda that would advance immigration reform.
Following significant calls from both sides of the aisle, the Biden administration released a plan that is a roadmap for the southern border and a call to action for Congress to act on immigration.
Senate continues to stall crucial efforts
Congress and the Department of Homeland Security must prioritize funding to address the staggering 9.5 million cases of immigration backlog, the dysfunctional asylum-seeking process dismantled by the Trump administration and ensure our immigration system is just, humane and fair.
Immigration, much like climate change, is an issue that will remain a constant unless Congress addresses it in a comprehensive and inclusive way.
While the House has passed immigration legislation, we need the Senate, including Senators Sinema and Kelly, to do its job.
The Senate continues to stall immigration legislative efforts to provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA and essential workers and improve guest worker programs. It continues to delay on critical resources and personnel to help with the backlog at our southern border.
Process migrants faster, rethink how we detain them
As Title 42 is lifted, the Senate must grant additional funding for resources and personnel for migrant processing and aid for local organizations and localities on the ground. We can provide humanitarian support to those arriving at the border and ensure asylum seekers understand the next steps in the process and how to find support in their communities.
We should turn to humane, less costly, community-based alternatives to detention, such as family case management programs, as asylum seekers continue with their immigration court proceedings.
Never again, under any circumstances, should asylum seekers be forced into crowded, unsanitary, inhumane detention for extended periods of time, as was common practice even throughout the pandemic.
There must also be concerted efforts to deal with the root causes of migration, including addressing climate change, corruption, violence and poverty, and establishing in-country processing programs for those seeking asylum in their home countries to humanely deter the dangerous trek to our border.
Build up border communities, not tear them apart
We cannot continue to enable a frustrating double standard, as we’ve seen at our southern border in recent months, that overtly suggests some asylum seekers deserve protection more than others because of their country of origin.
With the end of Title 42, it’s time that we prioritize the voices and communities of the southern borderlands in policymaking instead of politicizing and militarizing them. Politicians and pundits demonize migrants and the border region to feed into anti-immigration hysteria and score cheap political points while the ultimate victims of their rhetoric are the communities and businesses I represent.
At a time when these communities face some of the highest rates of social and economic inequities because of a lack of investment, we should be working to build community not rip it apart.
Together with southern border communities, we can craft policies that will restore an orderly, welcoming and just asylum system that preserves the uniqueness of the border region.