In late March, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project launched a campaign urging people to “step up and take action” to “reshape our racist and unjust immigration laws and policies.”
It might seem like bad timing. Headline after headline has chronicled the increase of migrants at the southern border, and it is shaping up to be a major stumbling block to the comprehensive immigration reform many thought possible under President Joe Biden.
“We cannot possibly pass any legalization legislation until we regain control of the border,” said South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who put forward a comprehensive reform bill in 2013.
Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, argues now is exactly the right time, given the shift in administration. And the window of opportunity is narrow, closing when another election cycle rolls around.
“The next nine months is really critical. Maybe even the next six or seven months,” he said. Repeated disappointments in the past, including over the 2013 bill, have fueled the sense of urgency. “We just have to get it done this year.”
But there’s no doubt the border situation has raised difficult questions: Do lenient policies, including the kind of paths to sweeping legalization outlined in Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act, encourage more migrants to come? How should the U.S. treat those migrants?
The bill would also phase out detention centers run by private businesses, expanding bans in 23 states, according to the sponsor of a bill that passed the Legislature last month in Washington that would close the Northwest detention center in Tacoma.