Pin the blame on the other party
Bonar is the Nebraska Chapter Coordinator of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and three children.
In recent years, the approach by Congress to immigration seems to be a never-ending game of "Pin the Blame on the Other Party." At face value, the faults of the immigration system are not mutually obvious, and the solutions are not agreeably attainable. One party’s approach to immigration may be criticized as idealistic. The other’s tactic is viewed as draconian. Meanwhile, the immigration system remains frustrated, and the extended support agencies, economy, and general public suffers.
If both sides were willing to work together to iron out the details, the immigration system would be principled and pragmatic — the best of both worlds. That’s why collaboration between Republicans and Democrats needs to be encouraged and praised.
My representative, Don Bacon of Nebraska, is such a collaborator. He has a history of supporting immigration reform legislation that has benefited the greater Omaha area he represents. Rep. Bacon is a Republican, his district is purple, and his state is red. His approach to that tension is to be willing to work with members of both parties to collaborate on legislation that gets across the finish line and then benefits the general public.
Rep. Bacon continued his pattern of bipartisan work to benefit his state by choosing to support the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) last month. This bill provides a pathway for legal permanent residency and a right to work in the U.S. for our Afghan allies who served alongside Americans in the war in Afghanistan.
The AAA establishes additional vetting procedures for applicants and expands eligibility for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Currently, most Afghans who have been admitted to the U.S. are on humanitarian parole — a program that allows applicants to stay in the U.S. temporarily, usually two years. This humanitarian parole has recently been extended for those who reapply, but once that expires again, parolees face loss of jobs, loss of homes, and deportation from the country. Parolees can try for permanent status by applying for asylum, but this system is severely backlogged and not likely to bring permanency before their parole expires again. The AAA would solve this problem by putting vetted Afghans on legal footing similar to resettled refugees, saving time and precious government resources.
Passing the AAA would be a great support for Afghan evacuees and their families, and it would ease the burdens of the community agencies that are working so hard to assist the refugee and immigrant communities. Afghans have contributed to American society by entering the workforce, creating businesses, attending schools, and adding richness to neighborhoods. Because passage of the AAA failed in the last Congress and may not be a guarantee in this Congress, many Afghans experience anxiety over the possibility of losing their new American homes and lives. The prosperity and safety of living in the U.S. have cemented many Afghans’ desires to stay in the U.S. and to continue supporting and contributing to the American way. However, the blessing of living in the U.S. is time bound unless the AAA is passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
Some lawmakers are hesitant to solve this issue when they feel solving a different immigration issue — at the border — is paramount. However, the AAA is as much a national security and veteran issue as it is an immigration issue. It is critical for the U.S. to be an honorable ally to those who served alongside our military and other agencies in the war in Afghanistan. Despite the country’s fall to Taliban rule, the U.S. needs to keep its promises of providing legal permanent residence to those who qualify and are vetted under the Afghan Adjustment Act.
Some also express concern that other immigrant groups — who are desperately waiting to obtain lawful permanent resident status — feel betrayed that Afghans would receive preferential treatment over them. Immigration is a hot issue that has faced political gridlock for more than three decades. This gridlock will never be broken if immigration continues to be viewed as a zero-sum game. A win for one group provides hope for another group, and the bipartisan relationships fostered through one improvement in our immigration system could help enable many more.
Lawmakers in Washington need to build bridges of cooperation between the two parties and not construct taller walls of division. Much work can be done with the cooperation and collaboration of members of both parties. Immigration will no longer be a migraine of an issue but a functioning system of the U.S. that both parties can be proud of and Americans can celebrate. Collaboration between Republicans and Democrats should no longer be a rarity. It should be the accepted reality.