Maribel Hastings and David Torres
In recent days, President Joe Biden has seen a series of pluses and minuses. Although at a personal level he contracted COVID-19, in the political realm he has racked up several victories that serve as a positive rebound to his presidency and, especially, his Democratic Party, in the face of the November elections.
It’s been the sort of breath of fresh air that was needed, not only for his agenda, but the performance of his colleagues who could not find any political escape routes due to the lack of results on promised issues, in addition to Republican attacks—with their racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that once again rears its ugly head in the realm of politics.
At the domestic level, for example, we point to approval of the Inflation Reduction Act by a Senate that, despite being Democratic, failed to advance his agenda over a little more than a year and a half of his presidency. That was due to Republican obstructionism and the reluctance of a pair of Democratic senators—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—who this time, miraculously, did not oppose an agreement that allowed the measure to advance.
This last thing, for certain, also represents a model for internal negotiation that should be put into practice for future intraparty blockades, especially now that the Democrats have demonstrated the unity needed to fight and win, and given that the midterm elections are around the corner.
Moreover, apart from a whole range of initiatives on topics such as climate change, renewable energy, health care, and taxes, one of the positive aspects of Biden’s economic plan is that the anti-immigrant amendments that Republicans wanted to include remain out; in particular, one that tried to extend Title 42, which allows migrants to be denied entry in moments of public health crisis, like COVID-19. The initiative, implemented by the Trump administration, sought to prevent the entry of foreign-born people who were legally seeking asylum.
Title 42 remains in place, but the underlying asylum program is alive and breathing—for now.
Add to that the good news about the “Remain In Mexico” program ending, since the same federal judge who ordered the Biden administration to reinstate it in 2021 annulled his opinion a couple of days ago, and the landscape for Democrats and their agenda returns again to the realm of their priorities. The fact that migrants who aspire to obtain asylum no longer have to remain in Mexico until their hearing before an Immigration Judge is, at any rate, a concrete step forward on the current administration’s list of pending migration issues.
So it seems, the cards are not stacked so high against the Democrats as they were some weeks ago.
Biden has also had good news on the economic front. In the month of July alone, more than 528,000 jobs were created, more than double the anticipated, despite inflation. The unemployment rate is just 3.5%, reaching pre-pandemic levels. And in more specific branches of the economy where Latino workforce participation is widely required and recognized, there was also significant growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: in the area of recreation and hotels, there was an increase of 96,000 new positions; in health care, 70,000; in construction, 32,000; and in manufacturing, 30,000.
Moreover, the price of fuel is going down.
In other words, Biden and the Democrats have scored some political points, although it remains to be seen whether voters will remember when they head to the polls in November since, in electoral terms, three months is a lifetime and anything can happen—especially with an opposition that uses strategies charged with an anti-immigrant essence, of lies and hate that they have rehearsed so well to agitate their followers and push them past the limits of sanity. Like January 6, 2021, no more, no less.
To that, add the effect that could be had on some voters since there are issues that remain untapped, like measures that would legalize at least a group of the 11 million undocumented people, like Dreamers, farm workers, and people with TPS.
And we can’t ignore the Trump effect on this whole process, especially after FBI agents entered his Mar-a-Lago mansion, looking for classified documents. This event and its aftermath could, like a double-barrel shotgun, hurt the ex-president’s plans to enter the political arena once again or, they could benefit it, increasing support among followers with the argument that, as he already said, Trump is being “persecuted” in order to frustrate his political ambitions. Of course, the role of “victim” is not his, not in this moment nor in any other, especially if we compare the FBI “raid” of Trump’s mansion with the operations he ordered against immigrant workers in their places of employment during his presidency—true raids that destroyed entire families and futures, forever.
So it seems, the cards are not stacked so high against the Democrats as they were some weeks ago, when it seemed that both chambers were lost to them. Right now, the competition seems tighter.
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