New York City media consultant César Vargas has been in the Dominican Republic for several months now, waiting on a visa for his Dominican-born wife Delmy, whom he married during the Trump administration. A wait on a spousal legal residency document has in the past taken about six months, but the Vargas couple has been waiting for more than a year. At one point, César says he had to return to New York for work and was separated from his wife for “quite a long time” as she is unable to travel while they wait for her visa.
“This is very hard. We got married during the height of anti-immigrant sentiments coming from the White House, and we both were looking forward to a more immigrant friendly administration under Biden. I mean, I voted for him. I had high hopes. I was happy he won,” Vargas told CALÓ NEWS. “I don’t understand what’s going on now. We have the same situation (on immigration) now than under Trump. This makes no sense.”
While Vargas has to wait under what officials call an unprecedented backlog of visa requests, what makes absolutely no sense to him – and to many immigrant advocates – is the Biden proposal that effectively allows some migrants into the United States while others face swift removal to border cities in Mexico.
“Biden promised to do away with Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, but it’s still here,” Vargas said.
The Biden administration promised to get rid of the Trump-era Title 42, a presidential executive order that allows U.S. immigration officials to turn away migrants at the U.S. borders without a hearing. It was originally done ostensibly to stop the spread of coronavirus, although there was never any evidence whatsoever that the virus was spreading from migrants coming across the U.S. southern border.
Immigrant advocates called the program a clear slam at immigrants, and while the current administration says it wants to see it end as it wends its way through the courts, the Biden White House has proposed to deal with an influx of immigrants by allowing a certain number of migrants each month – 30,000 – from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela on “parole” if they pass a background check and if they have financial sponsors here in the states. The White House has not said why migrants from those particular countries would be allowed in and others left out. In announcing the proposal, the president said the issue of immigration has not been resolved. “I am left with only one choice; to act on my own,” Biden said.
One particular aspect of the White House proposal that irks immigrant advocates is asking migrants to schedule appointments for asylum hearings via an app, CBP One. “Who exactly of those asking for asylum, fleeing their country, has an app on their phone tied to the Customs and Border Patrol?” said one advocate.
“This is absurd,” added Vargas. “This will leave out a lot of people who have real claims for asylum but have no connections in the states who will help them financially. I don’t know what the Biden White House was thinking when they came up with this.”
Immigration advocacy groups aren’t exactly jumping for joy, either.
“The Biden administration has been criticized for maintaining the policies of its predecessor, like the aforementioned Title 42, and has been put on the defensive, indicating that it is simply implementing what has been ordered by the courts. But that is a legal explanation that leaves aside the human element. Moreover, applying a discriminatory policy that, in reality, is trying to undermine asylum laws, because a court allegedly orders it, does not erase the damage that said policy has caused to thousands of refugees,” the group America’s Voices said in a statement. “Because who replaces a life, a hope, a chance at leaving the quagmire of violence, persecution, and lack of opportunities in very specific regions of the world—regions that have historically been pummeled so that development can flourish in other zones? Moreover, it never stops being surprising that a nation as rich and powerful as the United States does not designate enough resources to deal with the flow of migrants at the border in a more orderly, humane, and healthy manner. If it has billions of dollars to send to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, one would think it could handle the arrival of thousands at its borders in a more dignified way.”
And not surprisingly, Biden faces criticism from Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose district includes parts of the border city of El Paso and who was not part of the congressional delegation that recently went with Biden to the southern border. The White House did not respond when asked why no Republicans were invited on the trip.
“I’m not this crazy extremist Republican. I’m jumping up and down, pushing against my party when I think it’s right,” Gonzales,” said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“We can’t win,” said an immigration advisor and supporter of Biden. “We’ll get criticized no matter what. Congress needs to take up the issue (of immigration reform).”
The likelihood of that happening with a Republican majority in the House is virtually non-existent.
And here we go again like a broken record, say immigration advocates. “New year, same immigration problems,” concluded America’s Voices.