Why did Biden spend just one minute on immigration reform?

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive

During his second State of the Union Address, the highest rostrum in the Republic, President Joe Biden spent just over a minute on the issue of immigration reform.

Speaking to the nation, the president called on both parties to make migration a bipartisan issue again.

But in the end, Biden virtually gave up, as he suggested that if Congress doesn’t pass his proposal, he would settle for a bigger immigration budget.

The president, who made a strong campaign promise to fight for immigration reform leading to citizenship, seemed to give up the battle before starting it.

In one of the boxes of the great session room of the House of Representatives was the Mexican “dreamer” Gabriela Clatenco.

Like thousands and thousands of other dreamers, Gabriela was brought by her parents very young, at 4 years old. She struggled to get into the University of California at Riverside, where she hopes to graduate soon as an economist. At 20 years of age, she told me that she could not hide her disappointment when she saw the minimal amount of time the president spent talking about her promise.

“I am a little disappointed because the migration issue only had one line. I was hoping it would say something about registration, about a path to citizenship. Hopefully, we can see more action because there has always been a lot of promise, but we need execution now,” she told me before boarding her flight back to California.

Three days after the State of the Union Address, Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsay Graham, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, reintroduced the Dream Act 2023 to Congress. They have been doing so for nearly 20 years. Although a version already passed the past decade in the House of Representatives, it has stalled in the Senate.

Now the equation is reversed because of politics. The biggest difficulty would be getting it passed in the House of Representatives, where the leadership of Republican Kevin McCarthy is held hostage by the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus. Not even among themselves have they agreed on their initiative for a “border control” law.

But beyond the political position that one has on immigration reform, on whether or not it is convenient to grant citizenship to Dreamers and essential workers, especially farm workers, spend just a minute on an issue of such importance to the nation seems to me an act of political myopia.

I personally believe that immigration reform is not only morally necessary but also economically vital to the country’s national security interests. The fact that the president has not specified its importance and has not projected what is at risk for the interests of the nation, turned his message on the State of the Union into a missed opportunity to place the immigration debate in the existential dimension it has for the future of America.