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[The Washington Post, Dec 22, 2023] Opinion: GOP immigration demands would degrade, not strengthen, U.S. security - By Catherine Rampell, Columnist

Posted by: sam abrams

Date: Saturday, 23 December 2023

The Washington Post, Dec 22, 2023

Opinion: GOP immigration demands would degrade, not strengthen, U.S. security

 By Catherine Rampell, Columnist

In the name of protecting national security, Republican lawmakers are demanding — and President Biden is reportedly considering — immigration measures that would chip away at our national security.

For months, GOP lawmakers have held hostage proposed military aid for Israel and Ukraine. There is bipartisan agreement that our allies need this funding and that it’s in the United States’ security interests to help them fend off terrorist and authoritarian forces themselves. But Republican leaders have determined that they will not release the money unless Biden agrees to sweeping, draconian changes to the U.S. immigration system.

What does safeguarding national security have to do with curbing immigration? For the most part, not much. But they are related in the sense that the measures Republicans want would undermine U.S. security.

Many of Republicans’ immigration demands involve gutting the asylum system, created after the atrocities of World War II to give persecuted people an organized process to apply for refuge. One measure, for instance, would essentially revive the Trump-era Title 42 order, which used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum

Agreeing to these measures would violate Biden’s 2020 campaign promises to restore integrity and humanity to the asylum system — promises he has arguably already been reneging on. They would also likely violate our international treaty obligations, which means breaking commitments we made to allies around the world decades ago.

What’s more, they might incentivize more unlawful repeat border crossings and create more chaos at the border, as we saw when earlier versions of the auto-expulsion policy was in place.

Another GOP demand that has received much less attention would have even further-reaching consequences: eliminating executive authority to grant class-based “humanitarian parole,” which allows noncitizens to temporarily enter or stay in the United States legally.

Presidential parole authority, a key pillar of the U.S. immigration system, has been in place since the 1950s. Since then, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have used it to help populations whose swift arrival to a haven was in the United States’ moral and geopolitical interests.

Among the populations granted parole over the decades: Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro; Hungarians in the aftermath of the 1956 uprising; Vietnamese allies and orphans as U.S. troops withdrew from Saigon; Jews persecuted by the Soviet Union; Iranians after their country’s Islamist revolution; and, more recently, Ukrainians escaping Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on their homeland, as well as Afghan allies evacuated as part of our withdrawal from America’s longest war.

Our ability to quickly respond to war, oppression and other humanitarian crises abroad is critical to our national security — especially when we need to evacuate allies who are endangered because they helped U.S. interests. Our global reputation matters: When we break our promises to protect those who have protected us, allies might be less willing to take the risk next time we ask for help.

Revoking presidential authority to make classes of people eligible for parole, as Republicans currently demand, also has the potential to worsen border security. Why? Because parole is an orderly, legal pathway to enter the United States. The easier it is to come here safely and legally, the less incentive there is to pay smugglers and sneak in illegally.

Indeed, Biden has deployed the parole system with exactly this in mind when creating programs for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. Citizens from these countries can be granted advance permission to enter, live and work in the United States for up to two years — if they pass security and health screenings, secure a private “sponsor” in the United States, and demonstrate urgent humanitarian need (among other criteria).

The programs have been phenomenally successful. They have helped assure that more immigrants can financially support themselves or rely on social and family networks until they get on their feet. What’s more, they have resulted in enormous declines in unlawful border crossings of people from eligible countries. For example, the number of Venezuelans arrested for illegally crossing the border fell 66 percent between September 2022 (the month before the Venezuelan parole program began) and July 2023.

That progress has since stalled because arbitrary caps on the number of people who can be paroled have led to huge backlogs, which nudges desperate people back toward illegal forms of entry. But rather than expanding upon these innovative programs, Republicans have been trying to ban them — first through lawsuits and now through extortion in the Ukraine-Israel aid negotiations.

There are things Congress could do if it actually wanted to improve border security. For example, it could send more resources to the border and immigration courts to speed up asylum screenings and adjudications. Instead, lawmakers are fixated on measures that would increase chaos at the border, sacrifice our moral standing and degrade our ability to defend ourselves around the world.

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