Republicans this week circulated a memo on their plan to counter what they describe as a "radical" and "immoral" immigration agenda from President Biden as the GOP looks to unite against the rolling-back of Trump-era border protections.
"President Biden had made it a mission of his to refashion our nation’s immigration system into one that focuses on mollifying the political aspirations of the Far Left rather than those of American citizens," the Republican Study Committee's memo to fellow members and staffers says.
Republicans are reeling from a rapid-fire series of immigration orders and policies from the new administration designed to unroll many Trump-era border protections and measures to combat illegal immigration.
Biden has begun to roll back the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), ordered a halt to border wall construction and ended the Trump-era travel bans while his administration has sought to implement a 100-day moratorium on deportations. That moratorium has been blocked by a lawsuit, but the administration has narrowed deportation enforcement priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.)
In addition to those measures, congressional Democrats have introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act -- which would grant an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants as well as a slew of other measures liberalizing the immigration system.
"Under normal circumstances, President Biden’s immigration agenda would be irresponsible. During the present pandemic, and when viewed in light of Biden’s domestic policies, they are immoral," they argue, noting the contrast between loosening restrictions on illegal immigrants while keeping COVID restrictions on Americans.
The memo notes the crisis at the border, which has seen a dramatic surge of migrants in recent weeks -- leading the administration to throw up multiple migrant facilities in Texas for both migrant families and unaccompanied minors.
The memo goes through the various moves to roll back Trump-era policies, particularly critical of the reintroduction of catch-and-release -- by which migrants are released into the interior of the U.S. That policy had been ended in 2019 by a network of Trump policies -- policies that have now been scrapped.
The Biden administration has said it is reintroducing humanity to the immigration system and has denied there is a crisis at all -- calling it a "challenge" instead.
"It takes time to build out of the depths of cruelty that the administration before us established," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday. "What we are seeing now at the border is the immediate result of the dismantlement of the system and the time that it takes to rebuild it virtually from scratch."
But the lawmakers say the "wholesale" removal of Trump policies amid a pandemic and a border surge "will only further destabilize an already tumultuous situation that should be addressed carefully and thoughtfully, rather than in mad dashes of executive action." Separately, the group has been critical of the administration’s decision not to prioritize Americans over illegal immigrants for vaccine distribution.
On the immigration reform legislation, the group is critical of many aspects, including the amnesty as well as measures that reduce restrictions on some criminals and the expansion of the green card lottery. However, it notes there are some disagreements among conservatives about other aspects, such as the expansion of certain visa programs.
The memo warns Republicans that the trend of such policies will continue throughout the Biden administration whether or not the large immigration bill is passed. It warns that Democrats may try and break down the bill into more manageable chunks or include appeals to conservative via inclusions of mandatory checks, like E-Verify, or use other methods to get it through -- and says that lawmakers should stand ready to oppose.
"Democrats may also try to attach elements of the proposal to so-called must pass legislative vehicles, another strategy conservatives should prepare to fight," the memo says.
It calls for a similar strategy on illegal immigration, gearing up for a potentially yearslong fight in both chambers of Congress -- where a united Republican opposition could torpedo a number of Biden and Democratic pushes on immigration.
"Meanwhile, as long as the Biden administration is considering an interstate travel ban while opening its arms for illegal immigrants traveling under less than sanitary conditions, across multiple national borders, without quarantining, without vaccinations, and without PPE, conservatives will object," it says.
"Until the Biden administration stops kneecapping small businesses with overly burdensome regulations and mandated lockdowns while using taxes generated by those very same businesses to provide services to illegal immigrants and start them on the process towards amnesty, conservatives will push back," the memo says. "As long as American students miss multiple years of their education while the Biden administration is expending precious resources elsewhere, conservatives will demand recompense."
That strategy is likely to be tested in the coming weeks, when Democrats have said they intend to introduce two immigration bills for a vote -- both giving legal status to illegal immigrant farm workers and those brought to the country as children.