Years ago, immigration talks between President George W. Bush and Vicente Fox, then the president of Mexico, went on for too long, and after the attacks of Sept. 11, any hope of reaching an agreement was shattered. President Barack Obama failed to introduce his immigration reform proposal in 2009, when his party controlled both chambers of Congress and the country was facing a severe financial crisis; later, he didn’t have enough votes to pass it. President Biden shouldn’t take these kinds of risks. He should hurry.
To demonstrate that the issue is important to him, Mr. Biden recently met with a group of “Dreamers” at the White House. The meeting was extraordinary in and of itself. These young people were brought into the United States by their parents illegally, and are exempted from deportation through the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. A meeting like this during the Trump era would have been unthinkable.
María Praeli, 28, is one of the Dreamers who met with Mr. Biden. She was 5 years old when she was brought to the United States from Peru. The United States “is my home,” she told me. “Feeling so American, having so many memories in this country, and yet not knowing if I will be able to make a future for myself here is really hard. I just hope this is the year something happens.”
One of Mr. Biden’s first acts upon taking office was sending a comprehensive immigration proposal to Congress. And according to a Quinnipiac University poll published in February, most Americans support a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. But this proposal and similar bills remain stuck on Capitol Hill.
Democrats still lack the votes to overturn the current Senate rules, which effectively require proponents of most bill to muster 60-vote supermajorities to advance them. The only way out is to end the minority party’s power to stall legislation — the filibuster — and pass very concrete laws for the benefit of Dreamers and migrant farm workers through a procedural budget shortcut called reconciliation. Both issues are politically aggressive and would face huge Republican opposition. But it’s about time we made radical decisions to protect the lives of millions of immigrants like María.
President Biden, the clock is ticking. Please don’t wait much longer. We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Jorge Ramos (@jorgeramosnews) is an anchor for the Univision network, a contributing opinion writer and the author of, most recently, “Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.”
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