Republicans are aiming to erode legal immigration pathways as part of their latest attacks on immigration, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) warned this week as the White House negotiates an immigration deal with the GOP to prevent a government shutdown.
On social media, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted a portion of a House Oversight Committee hearing on immigration from Wednesday, emphasizing that conservatives, amid their fear mongering and racist rhetoric on immigration, often ignore that welcoming immigration policies typically have a stimulating effect on economies.
“Historically, the United States has economically outperformed other countries in part due to our welcoming of immigrants,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Republicans would like you to believe that they support legal immigration, but today, they launched an attack on legal immigration pathways.”
In the clip of her remarks at the hearing, she asks Cato Institute associate director of Immigration Studies David J. Bier, who is critical of the conservative crackdown on immigration, how countries typically fare when they close their borders as Republicans are trying to do. Bier brought up the example of Japan, which in recent years has been forced to accept more immigrants to address acute labor shortages after many years of being one of the most restrictive wealthy countries on immigration policy.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to highlight similar labor shortages that are currently cropping up in the U.S. — but said that Republicans would rather put children in danger by eroding child labor laws to fill jobs.
“Many of these Republican legislatures would rather roll back child labor laws and put 11 and 13 year olds back in the workplace than allow immigrants into their community and do what they’ve always done,” she said.
Rather, Congress must back policy “that can be documented, that people can get a job, put a shirt on their back, support their kids without being a public charge, and defend the very soul of what it means to be an American,” she concluded.
Indeed, while Republicans are seeking stricter — and deeply cruel — restrictions on illegal immigration at the southern border, they are also seeking to curtail a major policy known as humanitarian parole, which the Biden administration has been using to allow people in countries with unstable and dangerous conditions to fly straight to the U.S., rather than entering from the southern border.
Last year, after announcing that the policy applied to immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the administration allowed over 200,000 people into the U.S. under parole status, which does not typically provide pathways to permanent residence. But it has still historically provided relief to people from countries in dire crises, often brought on by U.S. military intervention, with humanitarian parole being used to admit people from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1970s, Iraq in the 1990s, and Afghanistan in 2021, for instance.
Indeed, a recent FWD.us report found that roughly 1.1 million immigrants on parole between 2021 and 2023 were a major boon to a wide variety of industries like construction, transportation, manufacturing, health care, and other fields that have been experiencing shortages. The research found that this section of the workforce collectively reduced the number of open job positions in industries with shortages by a third from early 2022 to the end of 2023.
While humanitarian parole has helped solve labor shortage issues and been a lifeline for many immigrants, Republicans in recent government funding deal discussions are seeking to limit the administration’s use of the policy — despite their protestations in public that they welcome legal immigration, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out.
Republicans also put their cruelty on immigration policy on display during the hearing. At one point, one Republican representative said that “we want family separation” in order to supposedly ensure that children who are separated from their parents are actually with their parents — a baffling admission based on a narrative that is almost entirely removed from the horrific realities of family separation at the border.
Democrats in the hearing said that Republicans’ immigration policy isn’t based on humane and strategic solutions, but rather on creating more issues for immigrants and crises at the southern border in order to score political points.
“It has become obvious that [Donald] Trump’s party doesn’t want immigration solutions at the border, they want immigration problems to run against,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) said.
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