Following orders from Trump, GOP kills immigration legislation
Migrant father crosses the Rio Grande with his daughter. The Trump plan if he were to win the election is to round up immigrants and put them in concentration camps. | Felix Marquez/AP

Congressional Republicans, at the behest of former president Trump, killed legislation to address the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. The bi-partisan Senate measure was scuttled on Feb. 5, never coming up for a full vote.

In between lying about the legislation, Republicans openly admit they killed it to exploit the immigration issue through the 2024 elections, by splitting the anti-MAGA majority electorate. They want to foment chaos at the border and blame President Biden and Congressional Democrats for an “immigrant invasion” so Trump and the GOP can win in November.

“Please blame it on me,” boasted Trump, a criminally indicted serial rapist and insurrectionist, at a rally on Monday. President Biden happily obliged, saying, “Every day between now and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border isn’t secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends.”

Senators crafting the bi-partisan legislation incorporated GOP demands to gain a majority but never had the votes to get it to the Senate floor. Many Democratic elected officials, immigration, and human rights groups denounced the legislation as cruel and restrictive, including placing new limits on asylum and refugee claims and cutting funding to the United Nations World Relief Agency (UNWRA) to send humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

“This bill is not worth the incredible price it would exact – more families separated, more children detained, and more people sent back to face persecution, torture, and even death. Instead of enacting draconian policies that create more chaos, we urge the White House and Senate Democrats to change course, reject this framework, and recommit to building an orderly, humane, and functioning immigration system,” the National Immigration Law Center said in a statement.

Border agents arrested a record 250,000 migrants for attempting to enter the U.S. illegally in December before falling in January. Another 50,000 migrants entered legally. Economic and social crises, deep structural poverty, drug cartel violence, and climate change-induced disruptions across Central and South America, especially Venezuela, are mainly driving immigration.

Pressure is growing on the Biden administration and Congress to do something. Fifty-seven percent of voters want a bi-partisan, compromise deal, including 80% of Democratic voters, in a Daily Kos/Civiqs poll.

But the Republicans are conjuring racist fears that Democrats want “open borders,” and that immigration from the Global South is part of a Democratic plot to “replace” the white majority. In December, Trump incited a crowd with anti-immigrant and racist hate in Durham, N.C. “They’re poisoning the blood of our country,” he declared. “All over the world, they are pouring into our country,” especially from Asia, Africa, and South America.

The GOP playbook is to block anything considered an achievement by the Biden Administration. By making government unworkable, including through government shutdown and defunding critical programs and agencies, they can call for the election of a strongman to upend the system.

Republicans are also trying to divert voters’ attention away from their agenda, including an abortion ban, climate denialism, and the improving economy. Under Biden’s stewardship, the economy created some 14 million jobs, real wages are up, and inflation is falling, according to the latest government report.

Draconian Trump immigration plan

The most extreme MAGA Republicans want zero immigration, legal or illegal, skilled or non-skilled workers, and Trump vows to impose unprecedented and draconian immigration policies if elected. The neo-fascist Stephen Miller, architect of immigration policies during Trump’s presidency, including the Muslim ban and family separation, drafted the new Trump plan, too.

The plan includes barring immigrants by restoring emergency authority under Title 42, put in place during the Covid pandemic. The plan authorizes mass roundups of undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, and ICE raids on workplaces.

The plan would restart and expand the Muslim Ban to include more countries in Africa, conduct expulsions without due process, revoke the temporary protective status of migrants from countries experiencing humanitarian or economic catastrophes, and (unconstitutionally) revoke birthright citizenship,

The plan would establish concentration camps paid with money from the military budget. It designates drug cartels as unlawful enemy combatants, laying the basis for a military invasion of Mexico, and authorizes the Navy and Coast Guard to set up blockades in the Caribbean to “stop drug smugglers.”

“The constellation of Mr. Trump’s 2025 plans amounts to an assault on immigration on a scale unseen in modern American history,” said the New York Times.

Trump would need to usurp broad authoritarian powers, impose a police state, whip anti-immigrant hatred to a frenzy, and weaponize the whole government and hundreds of billions of dollars to enact such a plan.

Its impact would be equally disruptive to the economy, social life, communities, families, etc. According to Paul Krugman, deporting millions of immigrants would be catastrophic for the economy. Immigration is a central part of the good economy and job reports. The increase in the labor force since 2020 is due almost entirely to immigration.

But the anti-immigrant hysteria and calls to end immigration are putting red states in a bind. The tight labor supply demands more immigrant workers, and GOP state legislatures are racing to fill the demand with child labor working long hours in dangerous jobs and prison labor.

Brewing constitutional crisis

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is provoking a constitutional crisis by brazenly challenging the Federal Government’s authority to make and enforce immigration law and border security. MAGA Republicans are normalizing breaches of the Constitution and acts undermining the rule of law, including defending Trump’s coup attempt and turning the Jan. 6 insurrectionists into martyrs.

The Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 ruling, affirmed the Federal government has a right to remove the barbed wire and floating barriers Texas erected in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass to block migrants.

However, Abbott is blocking federal border agents from gaining access to a park in Eagle Pass to remove them. The High Court ruling was silent regarding Texas’s ability to lay new barbed wire and barriers, so the state continues to do so.

Four of the corrupt Federalist Society MAGA Supreme Court justices sided with Texas, apparently believing the state has authority over immigration and border security, an ominous sign for future rulings on federal power, including the Chevron case.

The GOP governors claim they have the authority under “State’s rights” because the Federal Government hasn’t done its job protecting them from an “invasion,” and, therefore, they must do it themselves. “State’s rights” has been a rallying cry of racist obstructionists dating to the Civil War to defy Federal law, especially on Civil Rights protections.

Abbott’s intransigence, with support from 24 other GOP governors, is reminiscent of previous defiance of the federal government by states, including secession by the Confederacy, the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, and Supreme Court rulings striking down Jim Crow. The Federal Government had to send troops into Southern states to enforce the law and federal power.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have threatened violence, and calls for a civil war are ricocheting across the rightwing chat rooms and media.

Abbot and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are also using taxpayer money to ship busloads of migrants from their states, mainly to Chicago, New York, and other Democratic-led cities. The antics are forcing cities to find billions of dollars to house, feed, and provide services for the immigrants.

The current immigration crisis is unsustainable. The outcome of the 2024 elections will significantly impact how the government can address it. If elected, President Biden and expanded Congressional Democratic majorities can pass a humane, orderly, and just immigration, asylum, and refugee reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants while working with other countries to address the root cause of the migration crisis.

However, if Trump and MAGA Republicans prevail, a hellscape looms.

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John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.