U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, said last week he would support parts of President Joe Biden’s massive immigration reform plan if the Democrats would add border security to it.
But so far that doesn’t look likely, Van Drew said Sunday.
“One of the points Biden made ... was his plan will have nothing like that attached to it,” Van Drew said of increased funding for the U.S. Border Patrol, continued construction of the border wall, and other aspects of securing the border that he would need to support legal status for the 11 million to 13 million people now in the U.S. illegally.
“If we try to help those folks here now who are undocumented, we need to make sure this problem doesn’t go on ad infinitum,” Van Drew said. Without better border security, he said, millions more undocumented people would enter and the problem would continue.
Biden’s proposal is an immigration bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, that would give legal status and a path to citizenship to the 11 million to 13 million people who were in the United States illegally before Jan. 1. It would also reduce the time that family members must wait outside the United States for green cards.
“He’s working very much with the more progressive in his party. They are firm about that,” Van Drew said. “That to me makes it, to some degree, a nonstarter.”
But Van Drew said he believes the two parties could come to an agreement on helping the “dreamers” — the young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, who have lived her all or most of their lives — to attain a path to citizenship.
On Biden’s first day in office he ordered efforts to preserve the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program, known as DACA, has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012.
“First of all, I think we should start with the kids, the dreamers,” Van Drew said. “Let’s see if together Republicans and Democrats could come up with a plan.”
He would want background checks to be part of the process, and would want the DACA recipients to take a test and pledge allegiance to the United States, he said.
“They have to really want to be an American and love America,” Van Drew said. “It would be a good place for both sides to start. ... One of the tough parts is it has to get 60 votes in the Senate.”
Since the Senate is now split 50-50 between the parties, with ties broken by Vice President Kamala Harris, it will take Republican support for anything to pass.
Menendez has said he is open to working with Republicans to get a bill passed.
On his first day, Biden also signed executive orders halting work on a border wall with Mexico, lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries and reversing plans to exclude people in the country illegally from the 2020 census.
He also extended temporary legal status to Liberians who fled civil war and the Ebola outbreak to June 2022.
Last week, the Homeland Security Department announced a 100-day moratorium on deportations “for certain noncitizens,” starting Friday, after Biden revoked one of Trump’s earliest executive orders making anyone in the country illegally a priority for deportations.
“I know he said if they are very dangerous, people might be deported,” Van Drew said. “But even people who have killed people in drunk driving accidents would not be deported.”
Van Drew said Americans are strongly punished with prison terms for drunken driving deaths, and those here illegally should lose their right to be here if convicted.
“We’re going to have problems. The word is out they are going to be able to flow in much more easily,” Van Drew said of people wanting to enter the U.S. illegally. “With all we are going through with businesses hurting, the economy hurting, and the problem with COVID itself ... let’s just cool our jets a little bit. We have got to work on COVID, opening and moving the economy, and some day we do have to work on the immigration issue. I just don’t know if right this moment is the time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.