What will Biden say about immigration? Border agent and ‘Dreamers’ expected at State of the Union

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

What will Biden say about immigration? Border agent and ‘Dreamers’ expected at State of the Union

Immigration and the border

Andrea Castillo

March 7, 2024

After a failed bipartisan national security bill and amid reports that the White House is considering executive actions that could limit asylum, the country’s immigration crisis will be a topic of interest for many watching Thursday’s State of the Union address attend President Biden.

Biden is expected to tout his first-term successes, including higher infrastructure and manufacturing spending, and talk about how he would further improve the economy in a second term.

But how much of his speech will he spend discussing immigration? Listeners may be disappointed.

Would you please remind people that I have been in office for three years and that more people have crossed the border than that [ever]? It’s somewhat of a failure, says Alison Howard, a political science professor at the Dominican University of California who researches State of the Union addresses.

You can’t ignore it, Howard said. But do you want this to be the conclusion of your State of the Union address? I wouldn’t think so.

Visitors will tell a different story. Several members of Congress have announced invited guests symbolizing different aspects of the debate.

They include a Border Patrol agent from New York; an immigrant rights activist from Chicago; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program recipients; and the wife of a man killed by a neighbor in Texas who said Latinos were not welcome in his community.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) brings along United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero to draw attention to his support for a path to citizenship for farmworkers. On Tuesday, Schiff won his primary bid to run for the U.S. Senate in November, buoyed in part by support from unions like the UFW.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.) brings along Brandon Budlong, a Border Patrol agent and president of Local 2724 of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents agents in the Buffalo sector along the northern border. Stefanik voted for the Republican-led Secure the Border Act and voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.

Biden’s radical policies have encouraged an unprecedented number of illegal crossings into the Swanton and Buffalo sectors, endangering tens of thousands of lives, including those of our Border Patrol agents, Stefanik wrote in a statement announcing her guest.

The Department of Homeland Security has said the increase is due to a global migration problem not unique to the US

Officer Zunxu Tian and Lt. Ben Kurian of the New York Police Department attends as guests of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and GOP New York Reps. Anthony DEsposito and Nicole Malliotakis. A viral video showed officers being attacked in Times Square in January by a group of people police said were migrants, although at least one was later cleared of wrongdoing. Johnson also invited a woman whose daughter was allegedly murdered by a Salvadoran MS-13 gang member.

California Senator Alex Padilla brings Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez, recipient of DACA, the Obama-era program for immigrants known as Dreamers who were brought to the US as minors. Rojas Marquez is an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center and co-founder of Pre-Health Dreamers, an organization that helps immigrants access health care and pursue careers in the field.

I fully expect the president to address border security, said Padilla, who opposed the bipartisan bill because it did not include a legalization component for Dreamers and other immigrants.

If he wants to take the lead on this, he must remember what he said when he ran for president a few years ago: that a comprehensive approach is needed. It is not only appropriate but important that he hold Republicans accountable, the senator said.

A White House official, who discussed Biden’s speech on condition of anonymity, said the president planned to say the Republican-controlled House should pass the bipartisan national security bill and address the need for more resources and policy reforms.

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is also bringing along DACA recipient Valeria Delgado, a student at Chapman University and aspiring physician assistant.

Correa, the top Democrat on the House Boundary and Enforcement subcommittee, said he has brought a so-called Dreamer to the event every year since his election in 2017. Given the heightened rhetoric around immigration, he said, the tradition is particularly important this time. year.

Correa said immigration was one of the biggest issues that brought him to Congress, and that it has been oversimplified into a single political talking point. But there are three different problems, he said: immigrants who have worked and paid taxes for decades but are undocumented; the crisis of newly arrived migrants caused by global economic instability, exacerbated by COVID-19; and the threat of real terrorism.

He expressed frustration that despite longstanding bipartisan support for Dreamers, gridlock in Congress has prevented passage of reforms, even those agreed upon by both major parties.

I have to keep reminding people that we have to get back to basics, Correa said. Our economy needs workers, we need good, solid, hardworking people, and we need to keep working on common sense immigration reform.

But he said the current political climate is so toxic for immigrants that he doesn’t expect reform to happen anytime soon. Too many of his colleagues, he said, would likely risk their careers.

In the weeks leading up to Biden’s State of the Union address, the White House has pressured Republicans to help pass the border security bill. The president has taken an increasingly hardline tone on the issue, saying he would close the border if given the opportunity.

Former President Trump baselessly claimed during his campaign in North Carolina on Saturday for the Super Tuesday primaries that Biden’s behavior at our border is by definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America.

In response, Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa pointed to the failed bill. Once again, Trump is projecting in an attempt to distract the American people from the fact that he sidestepped the fairest and strictest border security law in decades because he believed [inaction by Congress] would help his campaign, Moussa said in a statement.

Howard, a professor at Dominican University, said the tradition of inviting guests to the State of the Union is used to put a human face on policy issues.

This year, First Lady Jill Biden invited Kate Cox, the Texas woman who was denied an emergency abortion by the state Supreme Court.

Guests are also invited to be recognized as heroes, as happened last year when the president invited Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park mass shooter.

Members of Congress pay attention to what they think will help support the party or embarrass the other party with their choice of guest, Howard said.

On immigration, Biden is unlikely to convince Congress to enact immediate reforms with his speech, she said. But he could talk about the Trump-era executive orders he reversed when he first took office, and what to expect on the issue in a second term.

Times staff writer Noah Bierman contributed to this report.


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