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Hispanic Congressional Democrats blast Biden for reigniting Trump era immigration policies

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently sprang into action after the Biden administration announced it would tighten restrictions at the border while creating some legal pathways for certain refugee groups, a policy change that left Hispanic Democrats in both chambers feeling betrayed since they were not consulted ahead of time

January 10, 2023 9:11am

Updated: January 10, 2023 11:50am

Democrats who are affiliated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) are conflicted about the White House these days, according to a series of statements from Members who voiced concerns and opposition to President Biden’s recent immigration policy changes toward Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans.

The administration said Thursday it would broaden Title 42 limitations empowering the government to decline entry to asylum-seekers, while making concessions it would grant entry to about 30,000 Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians.

Those changes invited a harsh reaction from members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a legislative organization of 38 Democratic members of Congress of Hispanic and Latino ancestry who focus on issues impacting Hispanic Americans.

Originally founded in 1976 as a bipartisan movement within the House of Representatives, the group is now exclusive to Hispanic Democratic Members of both chambers in Congress. Hispanics now represent a powerful group in the legislative branch, now making up more than a tenth of Congress. 

The CHC recently sprang into action after the Biden administration announced it would tighten restrictions at the border while creating some legal pathways for those groups, a policy change that left Hispanic Democrats in both chambers feeling betrayed since they were not consulted ahead of time.

Former Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro from Texas blasted the policy without hesitating to compare it to President Trump’s policies, in a statement released Friday.

“I am deeply disappointed to see the Biden administration extending failed Trump-era immigration policies that exacerbate chaos and irregular migration at the Southern border,” Castro wrote.

The Texas based Democrat Castro said the new requirements were “willfully dismissive of the realities facing asylum seekers.”

“Instead of making concessions to the same reactionaries who have spent decades opposing immigration reform, the Biden administration should work with Congress to develop smart immigration policy that meets our nation’s economic needs, upholds our fundamental values, and addresses the root causes of migration,” he suggested.

The Caucus’s newest chair, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán similarly identified the new policies as resembling the Trump era.

“As a nation of immigrants, we must have a humane, efficient, and professional immigration system that reflects our American values,” she wrote. 

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus welcomes the Administration’s efforts to expand legal pathways for refugees and asylum seekers but is disappointed with the expansion of the failed Trump-era Title 42 policy that has denied asylum seekers their rights to due process for far too long.”

In a similar show of condemnation, Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal and CPC Immigration Task Force Chairman Jesús García released a similar statement after they spoke to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, calling upon the president to “reconsider” the new policies.

While the two representatives were pleased about the new legal pathways created, they complained that “the new Department of Homeland Security proposal also includes expanding the use of Title 42, a public health law weaponized by Donald Trump to deny legal rights to asylum seekers, as well as potential regulations that would restrict the legal right to seek asylum. That is unacceptable.”

That statement came a day after the two saw Mayorkas in a meeting that included powerhouse Sens. Bob Menendez and Ben Ray Luján who were reportedly concerned they were not told ahead of time about the policy changes.

Menendez is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which advises the president on foreign policy matters. Menendez, who is the longest serving Cuban American member of Congress has always taken a deep interest in the plight of Cuban refugees seeking asylum from Havana’s communist dictatorship.

According to one report, Menendez lashed out at Mayorkas after it was learned they did not consult with any of the Hispanic members of Congress in its policymaking decisions, and even cited promises the president made on the campaign trail.

The senators were particularly irate about the how the new changes rehash Trump era policies that make migrants ineligible for asylum if they “transit” away from their initial location.

Other members complained that the changes created the danger in reviving Title 42, a Trump era policy that gave the government additional power to suspend asylum applications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Barragán’s statement, she declared that “the CHC must be consulted on all policies regarding the border and immigration.”

So far, the Biden administration seems undeterred on their path.

Two days before the president’s Sunday trip to Mexico, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said some migrants were already utilizing the program.

“Thousands of people have already applied and it’s been a day,” he said. The application is free. There’s no cost — that comes in contrast to people paying migrant smugglers, polleros, coyotes, you can use whatever term you want, thousands of dollars for a risky journey with no guarantee of entry into the United States,” Nichols said.

“I think that the policies that the president has announced will provide legal pathways for some 30,000 people a month from countries where there’s a significant demand and that will prevent people from putting their lives at risk through a perilous journey,” added Nichols.

The CHC, which is now exclusively Democratic was founded with Republican members who left in the late 1990s due to political differences with the left leaning policies of the liberal majority in the group. Those GOP Members formed a separate group called the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

The CHC has declined to admit two Republican Members in recent years—Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbello in 2017 and Texas based Rep. Mayra Flores from the Rio Grande Valley in 2022.

“As the first Mexican-born American Congresswoman, I thought the Hispanic Caucus would be open in working together,” Flores tweeted at the time.

Curbelo’s rejection, while not unanimous was still rejected based on his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.