In its first year alone, the Biden administration issued 296 executive orders addressing immigration, over 30% of which were aimed at undoing or disentangling those of the previous administration.[i] The administration has also increased its projected refugee admissions for FY2023 to 125,000–five times the number of refugees admitted in FY22.[ii] In particular, Democrats have been eager to ease the humanitarian crisis that erupted as a result of two Trump-era policies: “Zero Tolerance” (also known as “Family Separation”) and “Remain in Mexico.”
Coming into the 118th Congress, Republicans are keen on rolling back these steps, with a focus on migrants at the southern border, restricting sanctuary cities, and limiting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
During the last Congress, Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI-06) all introduced bills to overrule and end “sanctuary” policies in states and municipalities.[iii] [iv] [v] A Republican-controlled House could move quickly and aggressively on the issue. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) declared, “HR 1 in the next Congress should be the border security package,” while Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-04) was willing to be more specific, stating, “We need legislation to put back in place Remain in Mexico. We need legislation to actually build the wall, finish the wall.”[vi]
Notably, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA-03), who could become Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, cosponsored 13 bills in the 117th Congress aimed at limiting immigration and resettling migrants.[vii]
While a divided Congress may make passage of these reforms difficult, Republicans do have levers to pull when it comes to government funding. Rep. Roy said, “Republicans should not fund a government that refuses to carry out its constitutional duty and its legal duty to secure the border and enforce the law.”[viii]
Key Issues In The 118th Congress
[i] Muzaffar Chishti & Jessica Bolter, “Biden at the One-Year Mark: A Greater Change in Direction on Immigration Than Is Recognized,” Migration Policy Institute, January 19, 2022, available at https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/biden-one-year-mark.
[ii] “Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2023,” US Department of State, September 8, 2022, available at https://www.state.gov/report-to-congress-on-proposed-refugee-admissions-for-fiscal-year-2023/#ceilings.
[iii] S 876 – Ending Sanctuary Cities Act of 2021, March 18, 2021, available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/875/text.
[iv] S 3452 – Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, January 18, 2022, available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/3452?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22s3452%22%2C%22s3452%22%5D%7D&s=1&r=1.
[v] HR 319 – Ending Sanctuary Cities Act of 2021, November 9, 2021, available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3195/actions?r=64&s=1.
[vi] Caroline Coudriet, “Republicans plot immigration moves if they control House,” Roll Call, July 21, 2022, available at https://rollcall.com/2022/07/21/republicans-plot-immigration-moves-if-they-control-house/.
[vii] “Representative Clay Higgins,” Congress.gov, accessed on November 7, 2022, available at https://www.congress.gov/member/clay-higgins/H001077?q=%7B%22house-committee%22%3A%22Judiciary%22%2C%22subject%22%3A%22Immigration%22%7D.
[viii] Caroline Coudriet, “Republicans plot immigration moves if they control House,” Roll Call, July 21, 2022, available at https://rollcall.com/2022/07/21/republicans-plot-immigration-moves-if-they-control-house/.