Opinion: Immigration still going nowhere in Congress

Since Republicans won control of the U.S. House in the 2022 elections, GOP lawmakers have relentlessly attacked President Biden’s policy choices along the border with Mexico.

Not only have Republicans called for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but they’ve also threatened to impeach Mayorkas — as well as President Biden — over illegal immigration.

“It’s past time we hold the President accountable for his dereliction of duty at the southern border,” said U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens.

But this week, the GOP arguments for impeachment ran into a surprise — a 30 percent drop in the number of migrants coming over the border in June.

Obviously, one month does not make a trend, but the decrease comes after most Republicans had predicted an avalanche of migrants would flood into the U.S., when a special Coronavirus restriction, known as Title 42, was lifted in mid-May.

No matter the drop, it’s still obvious that changes are needed on the border and on immigration policies. House Republicans passed a border security bill that’s going nowhere in the Senate. No significant immigration legislation has been approved since 1986.

One problem with all of the high-volume finger-pointing over immigration in Congress is that it has undermined most efforts to make needed reforms in the legal immigration system — like in the visa program for farm workers.

Most people probably don’t realize that Georgia is the third biggest state — behind only Florida and California — for hiring temporary foreign agricultural workers.

This week, farm groups gave their support to a new bipartisan bill to change the H-2A visa system for farm workers and make it easier to fill open farm jobs.

“Labor is one of the biggest limiting factors facing agriculture,” argues American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall — a Georgia farmer who grows hay and raises cattle and poultry on his farm in Greensboro.

But even with the support of business groups — a reliable Republican constituency — H-2A reforms are getting little traction in Congress, overshadowed by the political battles over the border.

Some GOP lawmakers such as U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson, have loudly declared their opposition to any immigration law changes. In fact, Collins said this week he ‘would shut down all legal immigration’ until the southern border is ‘secure.’

Next week, Secretary Mayorkas will be knocked around by GOP lawmakers at a House hearing on immigration. There will be more talk of impeachment, even though that lacks widespread GOP support.

That leaves Congress in a political stalemate. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new when it comes to immigration.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com