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Black immigration advocates have ‘sigh of relief’ after border bill fails in Senate

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Black immigration advocates are pleased that a highly-contested bipartisan border deal failed in the U.S. Senate.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate tanked the Border Security and Combatting Fentanyl Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024, in a 49-50 vote, coming short of the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation.

Amy Fischer, advocacy director for the Americas with Amnesty International, told theGrio that she is happy that “the cruel policies included in the deal are not moving forward.”  

“I think it is disappointing that the reason it failed was more as a result of political dysfunction rather than a stand against the inhumane policies in the bill,” she said.

Maribel Hernández Rivera, director of policy and government affairs for border and immigration at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told theGrio she felt “a sigh of relief” that the immigration deal “did not go through.”

Rivera called the deal “cruel” and argued that it would’ve “hurt the most vulnerable people in a way that is unprecedented.”

Earlier this week, some Senate Republicans said they would vote against the bill, contending that it was not the answer to regulating the U.S. border. Even if the statute passed in the U.S. Senate, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., called the deal “dead on arrival.”

Johnson issued a statement on social media Monday, stating, “We will not pass immigration legislation that further incentivizes illegal immigration, does not reform asylum and parole in a meaningful way.”

Haitian family on the U.S.-Mexico border, theGrio.com
YUMA, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 07: An immigrant family from Haiti is taken into custody by a U.S. Border Patrol agent at the U.S.-Mexico border on December 07, 2021 in Yuma, Arizona.(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Fischer of Amnesty International said Senate Republicans voted against the border legislation because “it wasn’t extreme enough and were engaging in political posturing ahead of the election.”  

She said, on the contrary, Senate Democrats did not oppose the legislation because they felt pressured to stand with the Biden-Harris administration.

“The vote was less about substance and more about politics,” Fischer added. “But the results are the same, and we are happy that this bill is dead.”

This defeat comes just days after a bipartisan group of senators, along with the Biden-Harris administration, released the “Border Act” text to the public, which aimed to ramp up border enforcement, curtail asylum rights for migrants, and grant the Department of Homeland Security authority to partially shut down the border if the daily average of illegal crossings exceeds 5,000 daily, over the course of a week.

Azadeh Erfani, senior policy analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told theGrio that the border deal was “gut-wrenching” and would have greatly impacted Black and brown migrants.

“The bill [created] huge hurdles for minorities trying to seek protection in this country,” she said.

Fischer of Amnesty International said the bill was not an effective tool for managing immigration at the U.S. border.

“It will not do anything to stop the chaos or return human rights to migrants at the border,” she argued.

Border policies disproportionately impact black and brown migrants, and Fischer believes this bill would have only exacerbated existing barriers.

“It will force people who are trying to seek safety in the U.S. to be expelled and sent back to dangerous circumstances in their home countries or dangerous conditions in Mexico,” she said. “We know that racialized groups, particularly Black people [and] indigenous people, are very much at risk in Mexico.”

In a statement last month, President Joe Biden said that if the border bill is passed, it would be “the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border” that the U.S. has ever seen.

Biden called this deal a “win for America.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, theGrio.com
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Montgomery County Community College January 5, 2024 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. In his first campaign event of the 2024 election season, Biden stated that democracy and fundamental freedoms are under threat if former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the White House. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Vicki Gaubeca, associate director of U.S. immigration and border policy at Human Rights Watch, told theGrio that President Biden is “leaning into far-right philosophy” by limiting asylum rights for immigrants.

Rivera of the ACLU said, “There’s nothing fair about sending people back to danger without giving them the opportunity to present their case.”

She said the bill would’ve stripped migrants of their due process rights and have their day in court if they are denied asylum.

“They [would] no longer go to a court and say my case was wrongly decided,” said Rivera.

“We know for a fact that there have been many cases where once the case makes it to court, a judge makes a different determination from what the asylum officer made,” she added.

Many critics argue that the border legislation would have made it harder for some migrants to obtain asylum because immigrants are given a shorter window to meet a higher standard of proof that shows the U.S. is their safest option to escape catastrophic conditions.

Gaubeca of Human Rights Watch said the border bill would have made it “a lot harder for people seeking asylum.”

“Migrants [would’ve had] less time to present or obtain evidence,” she said.

Rivera of the ACLU said this policy would have disproportionately impacted Black and brown migrants.

“A lot of people who are coming here are Black and brown migrants who are fleeing from danger and have no other choice,” she said.

However, she believes the bill would’ve placed them in even more danger if they were unable to prove that they were in dire need of refuge.

Additionally, the legislation would’ve increased enforcement at the border by granting the Department of Homeland Security the authority to hire more personnel. Last month, Biden requested an additional 1,300 border patrol agents, 1,600 asylum officers, and 375 immigration judges. The president also wanted to place more than 100 inspection machines at the border to prevent fentanyl from being smuggled into the U.S.

Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, theGrio.com
FILE – Migrants wait for U.S. authorities, between a barbed-wire barrier and the border fence at the US-Mexico border, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. The U.S. on May 11 began to deny asylum to migrants who show up at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in a country they passed through, according to a new rule released May 10. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File)

The bill would have also provided billions of dollars to immigration agencies, including $6.8 billion to Customs and Border Protection, $7.6 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and nearly $4 billion to Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Fischer of Amnesty International said that when detained by U.S. immigration agencies, Black and brown migrants face a higher risk of experiencing cruel and unusual conditions.

“The detention system has been very deadly to racialized people, and under this bill, it will expand beyond what we even saw in the Trump years,” she said.

Erfani of the National Immigrant Justice Center said the bill would have been “a gift to private prison companies.”

“It would really enable ICE to round up people and to put them in detention at a historical level,” she said. “We should be going forward globally to not incarcerate people on the basis of their nationality.”

Gaubeca of Human Rights Watch said the now-failed legislation did not address the problems at the border and would not stop immigrants from seeking refuge in the U.S.

“It’s like the definition of insanity. The U.S. has been using deterrence tactics at the border for three decades, and it’s not working,” she said.  

Gaubeca added, “It’s time that the U.S. government and Congress” change course.

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