During last year’s State of the Union address, President Biden remarked, “And if we are to advance liberty and justice, we need to secure the border and fix the immigration system.” One year later, Congress has yet to pass legislation that addresses needed immigration reforms. Biden should address border and immigration reforms even more clearly in this year’s speech and lay the groundwork for his administration and members of Congress from both parties to work together on meaningful solutions. Here’s why:
1. There’s bipartisan support for border and immigration reforms, from your neighborhood to the halls of Congress.
Immigration reforms have support across party lines and industries — from religious leaders and business executives to labor unions. In polling of 1,000 registered voters conducted last year, 73% of voters, including 70% of self-identified conservatives, supported “Republicans and Democrats working together on immigration reforms that strengthen border security, allow immigrants brought to the United States as children to earn citizenship, and ensure a legal, reliable workforce for America’s farmers and ranchers.”
In December, Sens. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) introduced a bipartisan immigration framework that addressed border reforms and a solution for Dreamers. Though the framework didn’t become law, it was a step in the right direction — ultimately showing that bipartisan consensus is possible and within reach. And earlier this month, on the heels of President Biden’s border trip, a group of eight bipartisan senators, led by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), visited the U.S. southern border. They met with city officials, nonprofit leaders and business owners to better understand the migration situation and its impact on local communities. While there, they promised to set up a bipartisan coalition and renewed their commitment to working together on legislative solutions.
It’s clear that bipartisan public support for immigration reforms exists — and the time to get legislation done is now. President Biden and Congress should act on this opportunity to advance a package of needed legislative reforms, including humane, commonsense border solutions and long-term fixes to our immigration system.
2. Dreamers can’t continue to live in limbo and need permanent legislative solutions.
For over 10 years, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been a lifeline for many Dreamers. More than 600,000 current DACA recipients have studied, worked and built lives in the U.S., contributing as health care workers, teachers, engineers and more. They are essential members of our communities and are vital contributors to our economy. DACA recipients hold $25 billion in spending power in the American economy and contribute billions in federal, state and local taxes each year.
However, because DACA was created via executive action and not congressional legislation, it is in a perpetual state of legal limbo. It can be revoked at any time, and cases winding through to courts have a very real possibility of ending with the Supreme Court ending the program altogether. In the meantime, USCIS is blocked from adjudicating new applications, and hundreds of thousands of additional Dreamers are not eligible because they missed the cutoff date for the program.
Dreamers and their employers, teachers and classmates shouldn’t continue to live in a perpetual state of uncertainty. They need stability for themselves and their families. Americans from across the political spectrum support legislation that would provide permanent solutions for Dreamers. Now it’s up to Congress to act — and they can do so this year.
3. Labor shortages and inflation can be addressed via fixing our immigration system.
The U.S. is amid a demographic and workforce crisis — baby boomers are retiring; millennials are having fewer children than previous generations and immigration levels are at the lowest levels we have seen in decades. All are contributing to America’s labor shortage. These shortages across industries, in turn, are contributing to supply chain issues and rising food prices. Demographic decline, rising food prices and worker shortages can be addressed in part through fixing our outdated and often dysfunctional immigration system.
Through better legal-immigration pathways, industries can address labor shortages, work to alleviate supply chain issues and help the U.S. economy grow and flourish. Immigration can also help reduce inflation, a serious concern for American consumers.
America’s agriculture and food industries rely heavily on migrant labor — and with increased migration, these industries can offset the pressure and losses they suffered in the past several years, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bipartisan reforms proposed in the last Congress could have helped farmers get the workers they need to tend their crops and their cows, reduce food waste from unharvested crops, prevent the offshoring of food production and ultimately stabilize food prices for American families. Congress should revisit those proposals this year.
Revamping and updating our immigration system can help with growing market demands and spur vitality and growth in our communities. Immigrants are essential to our prosperity.
President Biden has a chance to address immigration and reiterate that it is a priority during this year’s State of the Union. We hope that he will do so and work with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress on bipartisan solutions this year.