Immigrant advocates after W.H. meeting: ‘Next steps’ on policy remain unclear

In a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, a major immigrant advocacy group urged the Biden administration to take immigration policy off the back burner and finally pressure Congress to take action ahead of the upcoming midterms.

Attendees said they saw a clear desire to try and find a path forward for immigration reform. But they also conceded they left with few tangible commitments.

“Ideally, we would’ve gotten more tangible and complete answers to some of those questions on … what are their actual commitments, what are their next steps,” Yaritza Mendez, organizing co-director at the progressive immigrant-led group, Make the Road New York, said after the White House meeting. “But we suspected from the get, that it was going to be hard to have that breakthrough.”

During the meeting, which was with a senior adviser to the president and administration officials who work on migration and political strategy, members of Make the Road warned that the “political environment has worsened” with heightened inflation concerns, unfavorable court outlooks and the Democrats’ slim congressional majority in jeopardy.

Group members stressed the need to provide permanent solutions for undocumented immigrants, including those currently with temporary protections in programs with tenuous futures. In particular, the outlook of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is uncertain because of legal challenges and future administrations could do away with Temporary Protected Status designations for certain immigrants, the group noted. More broadly, they urged officials to return to making immigration reform a policy priority, before the window of opportunity potentially closes in November.

“While all of this has been going on, our members have been patiently waiting and pushing for permanent immigration relief, knowing that time is running out,” the group said in a statement at the meeting and shared with POLITICO. “The White House, on the other hand, has been publicly silent on affirmatively moving or prioritizing any immigration legislation.”

The White House declined to comment on the meeting.

Group members said they urged the administration to be more vocal in pressing Congress to act on immigration reform — as many of the group’s members are part of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. hoping to get access to a pathway to citizenship.

Congress has remained unlikely and unable to reach any kind of immigration breakthrough that would garner enough Republican support to pass the Senate. Last year, the Senate parliamentarian rejected multiple attempts from Democrats to include immigration reform in their party-line social spending bill.

GOP leaders, meanwhile, have expressed little interest in Democrats’ attempts at immigration reform. Instead, they have increased their calls for tighter border security and urged Biden to keep in place Trump-era restrictive border policies.

Mendez said group members left the meeting feeling the White House officials were open to planning more frequent conversations.

Flor Gonzalez, a member of Make the Road Pennsylvania who spoke in the meeting, emphasized her frustration over a lack of action in Washington, but that she welcomed the opportunity to speak up for herself and millions of immigrants in her same situation.

“While I can’t vote, I have the power of my voice, and I will continue using it,” Gonzalez said.