Miami, Mar 2 (EFE).- Organizations defending immigrants’ rights on Wednesday expressed their concern over President Joe Biden’s remarks on the subject in his State of the Union Address, saying that he sounded like his predecessor, Donald Trump, especially when he referred to protecting the US border, a phrase that historically has been used by Republicans.
“It wasn’t very different from Trump,” Yanira Arias, with Alianza Americas, told EFE regarding the speech that the Democratic president delivered before Congress and on live television on Tuesday evening and in which he briefly referred to the immigration issue.
Greisa Martinez, with We Are Home, said that “it was two minutes of the same words we’ve been hearing for 35 years and without any action.”
Biden on Tuesday called on Congress to approve immigration reform and a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented migrants, claiming to have gotten many Latin American countries to take in more refugees and keep their borders secure.
However, for many activists his words were similar to those Trump regularly used during his 2017-2021 presidency.
“They were similar (in terms of) that patriotism of building (products) with US labor, in moving the economy forward, in continuing as a world power, in protecting the borders,” Arias said.
Meanwhile, Nicole Melaku, with the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) told EFE that she was “happy” that Biden mentioned immigration.
However, she said that pro-immigrant groups are awaiting a “more generous country” in terms of its immigration policy and in fulfilling many of Biden’s promises such as “reducing the barriers to citizenship.”
Arias said that perhaps the only difference between Biden and Trump, although “he fell short,” was his allusion that no border wall needs to be built because there are now Covid-19 vaccines, a reference to Trump’s controversial Title 42 policy.
Using the argument of the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump activated that measure that allows US authorities to refuse admittance to migrants at the border without giving them an opportunity to request asylum in the US, a policy that Biden has maintained.
The activist also lamented Biden’s mention of the agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to halt migration as a legacy of the Trump administration instead of a policy of fighting against violence, drug trafficking and corruption in those nations, factors that spur their citizens to emigrate, often illegally.
“It’s concerning” that there is no change in viewpoint regarding a mechanism to “try to strengthen not only the economies but all the necessities that lead to a dignified quality of life, to opportunities so that people can remain” in their homelands, she said.
“The governments of the region are acting as a big wall where they not only dedicate military personnel and other types of police authorities to halt migration, but also transform themselves into an extended arm of immigration authorities on the Mexico-US border,” she said.
She urged Biden to be more “incisive” and to move forward with legislation to provide ongoing protection for essential workers and populations that already have migration protections, like the so-called “Dreamers” – young people who arrived illegally in the US as children, brought by their parents – and the beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status.
Martinez, meanwhile, said that “the Democrats in Congress have opted to continue risking the lives of millions of undocumented people.”
She also said that the president “has left inhumane policies in place like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico.” The latter, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, obligates migrants who arrive at the US border and request asylum to wait in Mexico while their requests are processed, a bureaucratic and legal process that often takes many months.
“The president still has the political power of the Lower House, the Senate and the White House (where Democrats hold sway). So, he has the power to see to it that millions of people have protection,” she said.