Yesterday, I highlighted some of the main points in Democratic Presidential candidate Julian Castro’s comprehensive immigration plan. Today, the focus is on a recently released plan from candidate Beto O’Rourke. You can find the full plan here.
O’Rourke’s plan centers on three main pillars:
1 Using executive authority to stop inhumane treatment of children, reunite families that have been separated, reform our asylum system, rescind the travel bans, and remove the fear of deportation for Dreamers and beneficiaries of programs like TPS.
2 Immediately engaging Congress to enact legislation—focused on the vital role families and communities play—that will allow America to fully harness the power of economic growth and opportunity that both immigration and naturalization will bring to our country’s future.
3 Strengthen our partnerships with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere—refocusing and supporting democracy and human rights and invest in reducing violence because the only path to regional security runs through a more democratic and prosperous Latin America.
Here are some of the main highlights of each of those components. And we must keep in mind that there are many similarities to Castro’s plan, but a few differences as well. I’ll touch on those shortly.
*Reform asylum system and reunite families.
*Ensure lawful and humane conditions at U.S. Customs and Border Protection(CBP).
*Rescind current administration’s executive orders that seek to maximize detention and deportation, including former Attorney General Jeff Session’s asylum re-interpretation relating to domestic violence and escaping from gangs.
*Ending family separations at the border and illegal practices like “metering.”
*Issue executive order to require detention only for people with criminal backgrounds representing a danger to the community.
*Eliminate funding for private for-profit prison operators.
*Scaling up community-based programs and family case management to help asylum seekers navigate the immigration system.
*Reinstate the Central American Minors program.
*Upgrade and increase staffing in the asylum system and streamlining how cases move through the process by increasing court staff, clerks, interpreters, and judges…making courts independent of U.S. Department of Justice(DOJ)…expanding Legal Orientation Program(LOP) to ensure proper immigration system navigation….and deploying 2,000 lawyers to the border, as well as adequate funding.
*Refocus on smart security by among other things, halting work on the border wall.
Prioritize cracking down on smugglers and traffickers.
*Create an earned pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people, as well as an immediate path for Dreamers, TPS beneficiaries, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs.
*Prioritizing family unity by family reunification, revising preference categories and caps, and removing bars to re-entry and status adjustment to support families.
*Establishing a new, first-of-its-kind community-based visa category.
*Increasing visa caps so we can match our economic opportunities and needs to the number of people we allow into the country.
*Ensure immigrant reliant industries have access to a program that will enable workers to legally come here and legally return to their home country with appropriate labor and mobility protections.
*Address the green-card backlog and provide opportunities for those awaiting resolution to work and contribute.
*Promote STEM education by granting foreign-born students more flexibility to stay in the U.S. and gain employment after graduating.
*Make naturalization easier for the nearly 9 million immigrants who are currently eligible for citizenship.
*Bolster security and functionality of the border where trade and travel occur by increasing personnel, strengthening infrastructure, and addressing failures.
*Ensuring transparency and accountability in law enforcement, including ICE and CBP.
*Partnering with the Northern Triangle people to fight violence and poverty and bolster our shared security and prosperity by such things as investing $5 billion in the region primarily through non-governmental organizations, community groups, congregations, and public-private partnerships and utilizing financial support from other international partners.
*Specifically targeting the $5 billion towards things such as: supporting the growth of small-scale farming; elevating job, training, and educational opportunities for youth; improving access to health care, clean air, and clean water; promoting democratic infrastructure, labor rights, and human rights.
*Address systematic impunity, corruption, and weak institutions.
*Strengthen Mexico and Latin America’s capacity to contribute to regional security, by supporting the United Nations’ Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) work.
*Working with UNHCR to expand the size of Mexico’s refugee system and to collaborate with Mexico on asylum seekers who are both traveling to and through Mexico.
So here’s the deal. What both Castro and O’Rourke’s plans reveal, is a complex system of how we deal with those coming in and out of our country. For far too long, Democratic and Republican administrations have pushed this issue aside for both political expedience, as well as a lack of will to do anything about it. It’s just too hot of an issue for most of them.
At the very least, both of these proposals have a substantial amount of ‘meat on the bones.’ In other words, there’s enough specificity and detail, whereby it should foster debate and discussion. I realize we’re closing in on an election next year, and the possibility of any of these solutions ever coming to fruition before that is extremely remote.
As stated above, there are many similarities between the two plans. If you actually put them side by side, it would be tough to distinguish any significant differences. I will say, however, that O’Rourke’s proposal as it relates to Central America is a bit more specific. He actually puts a monetary figure to the plan–$5 billion—and lists an agency such as the UNHCR, that he would work with to help with regional security.
There’s no getting around the fact that if we don’t fix the problem in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, we will not fix this problem. The idea that both of these candidates understand that fact is refreshing. The idea that the President of the United States doesn’t seem to understand it is pathetic.
This President ought to be demanding the leaders of all three countries meet with him at Camp David, for an emergency session to deal with the crisis. If he really wanted to fix it, that’s what he would do.
But it almost appears as if the President doesn’t really want to fix the problem anyway. Is it out of the realm of possibilities that he would like nothing more than to have this issue still out of control and unsolved, leading up to the 2020 election? Of course not. His base of support, already rabid and ready to back their man no matter what will be chomping at the bit come November 2020. He knows this and will do whatever he can to keep them riled up.
Perhaps the only way we will ever deal with immigration reform, and actually get some real concrete solutions in place, is if the Democrats win the White House, keep the House in their control, and win back the Senate. It’s a monumental task … but not impossible.
We should all be grateful that both Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke have presented us with some workable solutions to a complex problem. I’m sure other candidates will weigh in going forward. The Democrats at least, are separating themselves from their counterparts on the other side of the aisle. The Republican Party seems hellbent on following this President’s lead … no matter how ineffective or cruel he becomes.