Can Bipartisan Immigration Reform Gain Steam in 2023 After Failing in 2022?

2022 concludes another year of little to no meaningful immigration reforms while the urgency and need for them increased. With an unprecedented number of illegal border crossings, a ballooning all-time high backlog of two million immigration court cases, an inflationary workforce shortage with nearly twice as many open US jobs as unemployed Americans, and DACA in limbo, the 26-year inaction by lawmakers is disappointing to say the least. 

The solutions to these problems are relatively simple and supported by the majority of Americans: appropriate more funding for resources to secure the border and adjudicate cases quickly, including judges, staff, equipment, and infrastructure; increase legal methods for economic migrants to enter the US and as opposed to crossing the border illegally; legislate a method to allow Dreamers who were brought to the US as children to earn permanent legal status, and create a method for unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status so we can ID and Tax them properly. 

However, partisanship and politics have prevented lawmakers from achieving the 60 bipartisan votes required in the Senate to pass these needed reforms. While Republican lawmakers call for border security and Democratic lawmakers call for a solution to allow Dreamers and unauthorized immigrants to earn permanent legal status, neither side is willing to admit that both solutions are needed. 

While holding the presidency and majority control of both chambers of Congress for two years, Democratic politicians failed to make a deal with Republicans to pass any real immigration reforms, falling short on their campaign promises to immigrants, businesses, and advocacy groups.

Meanwhile, most Republican politicians have been outspoken about the border crisis, using it as an effective campaign issue. While they continue to blame President Biden and Democratic lawmakers for neglecting the border, Republicans share responsibility for failing to work with Democrats to fulfill their promises to improve border security. 

D's blame R's, R's Blame D's, nothing gets done, and American taxpayers, consumers, and businesses pay.

However, that is not to say there is no hope and no lawmakers who are working towards solutions. There were some good immigration bills and legislative frameworks that were introduced in 2022 which lawmakers can follow up on this year. 

Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar's Dignity Act would secure the border and allow DACA recipients and unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status by meeting a number of conditions and paying fines and backtaxes. As Republicans take control of the House, this bill could serve as a foundation for bipartisan negotiations and a starting point of immigration reforms Republicans are willing to support. 

The sensible Bipartisan Border Solutions Act has bicameral and bipartisan support, cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn and Kyrsten Sinema, and Representatives Tony Gonzales and Henry Cuellar, could also serve as a starting point for bipartisan immigration reform. 

Newly Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Senator Thom Tillis appeared to make a genuine effort at a brokering a last-minute bipartisan deal to provide DACA and border solutions during the lame-duck session. Sinema has promised she will be “coming back strong” in 2023 to gather bipartisan support for the framework.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin recently called for a revival of a 2013 immigration bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes from Republicans and Democrats but died in the Republican house. That $42 billion bill included 900 miles of border wall, enhanced security at ports of entry, and a conditional method for unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status. 

Another positive developmentis that on Sunday President Biden will finally make his first trip to the southern border since taking office. Hopefully Biden will take the time to listen to the recommendations of the experts, officials, and landowners who are dealing with the surge of migrants first hand. Perhaps this will lead to more clarity and action on what kind of border solutions are needed, and increase lawmakers’ urgency at passing additional bipartisan reforms.  

Thursday, in an effort to decrease migrant flows at the border, the Biden Administration announced that it would allow up to 30,000 migrants a month fleeing Haiti and socialist countries Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, to obtain work permits if they apply from their home countries, have a sponsor, pay a fee, and enter through an airport. It also announced that it will expel to Mexico up to 30,000 migrants a month from those countries who cross the border without documentation. This seems like a sensible solution to provide needed legal tax-paying workers to the US economy that is battling inflation while redirecting migrant flows away from the border and ensuring more secure and documented immigration.

Bipartisan immigration reform can gain steam in 2023 if Americans hold both Democratic and Republican lawmakers accountable for their failures to advance much needed reforms.


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