Hispanic and progressive Democrats protest proposals to limit asylum for immigrants ⋆
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic and Progressive caucuses appealed to U.S. Senate negotiators Thursday to abandon a plan to curb U.S. asylum laws and diminish the president’s ability to grant special protections for immigrants escaping war and natural disasters.
The Democratic U.S. House members stood against a backdrop of immigrants and asylum seekers holding signs reading “#SaveAsylum” and implored that America remain a “beacon of hope and freedom for people fleeing persecution, violence, wars and human rights violations,” said Rep. Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico.
Lawmakers, including Reps. Maxwell Frost of Florida and Yvette Clarke of New York, talked about their parents who immigrated to the United States.
“It’s thanks to the bravery of my mother and my mother’s family that I can stand before you today,” said Frost, whose family left Cuba for the U.S.
Frost said that if House Republicans support what he described as restrictive immigration proposals then they should “be very clear” to people fleeing their homelands.
“I tell my Republican colleagues, one of the biggest symbols of freedom, one of the biggest symbols of the right to asylum is the Statue of Liberty. Tear it down. Take it down. Let’s stop lying to the entire globe,” he said.
The lawmakers stood alongside members of CASA, a Maryland-based immigration advocacy organization.
Ornela Medom, an asylum seeker from Cameroon, spoke on behalf of the group and told the small crowd near the U.S. House steps that “my life and those of thousands of asylum seekers will be determined by the choices legislators are going to make in a few days.”
“Asylum is a right, and we are here to demand our right. So save asylum,” said Medom, 28, who has lived in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for eight months.
No agreement yet
Congressional leaders met with President Joe Biden Wednesday at the White House to hammer out a deal that would attach immigration policy changes to the administration’s request for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
No agreement emerged, but lawmakers, particularly Senate leaders, expressed optimism.
Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas at Thursday’s event criticized potentially exchanging “permanent changes to asylum which would fundamentally change the character of the country for funding for two wars,” referring to the Ukraine-Russia war and Israel’s offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
The Biden administration maintains that delaying or halting U.S. assistance to Ukraine “endangers the United States’ national security, the NATO Alliance, and the rest of the free world,” according to a White House readout of the meeting Wednesday.
But Senate and House Republicans are refusing to pass the president’s more than $100 billion emergency supplemental funding request without changes to the immigration system.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, alongside Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota, said at a Wednesday press conference that the president’s parole authority is a “red line,” and without changes, there will be no deal.
For more than half a century U.S. presidents have authorized emergency orders for temporary stay in the U.S., called humanitarian parole, for immigrants fleeing wars, natural disasters and political violence.
Recent parolees have included more than 76,000 Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal, more than 140,000 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, and 168,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans in a Biden administration response to an influx at the U.S. Southern border.
House Republicans have demanded the deal resemble their immigration bill, H.R. 2, which passed the lower chamber in a party-line vote in May.
The legislation, which does not have the necessary support in the Democratic-led Senate, aims to restrict qualifying events for parole, narrow work authorization for parolees and change the determination of parole status to individual cases rather than eligibility based on membership in a defined group.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, of Louisiana, said Wednesday after the White House meeting that Republicans “must insist that the border be the top priority.”
Members of the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses on Thursday accused the GOP lawmakers of using immigrants as “political pawns,” Stansbury said.
“They care about winning the next election,” she said.
Former President Donald Trump, the party’s 2024 presidential front-runner, is campaigning on the issue on a near daily basis.
“I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION of Millions & Millions of people, many from parts unknown, into our once great, but soon to be great again, Country!” Trump posted Wednesday on his platform, Truth Social.
Frost, who represents central Florida, said he’s “very upset about what’s going on.”
“(I was) sitting in a committee yesterday hearing people like Marjorie Taylor Greene say if Trump gets elected, ‘We’re going to have mass deportations, it’s going to be great,’” he said referring to the congresswoman from Georgia. “It might not impact her community that’s 75 or 80% white, but it will impact mine.”
Greene’s congressional district is 69% white, according to Census data. The white population makes up 39.8% of Frost’s district.
authored by Ashley Murray
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