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Rep. Greg Casar: Biden Must Not Cave on GOP’s Hard-Line Immigration Demands in Ukraine Funding Request

StoryDecember 13, 2023
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President Biden appears to be caving to hard-line Republican demands for a new crackdown on asylum seekers and immigrants nationwide in exchange for more Ukraine funding. As negotiations on the emergency funding request continue, we speak with Democratic Congressmember Greg Casar of Texas about how he and other lawmakers oppose “some of the worst changes to our immigration system in decades.” Casar and Democracy Now! co-host Juan González also discuss how today’s “toxic brew” of border politics relates to 200 years of Monroe Doctrine policies punishing Latin America, forcing people to flee their home countries, and then blocking them from seeking asylum in the United States.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We look now at how President Biden appears to be caving to Republican demands for hard-line border measures in exchange for funding for the war in Ukraine, that also include a new crackdown on asylum seekers and immigrants nationwide.

This is CBS reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: These changes include a new authority that would allow border agents to summarily expel migrants back to Mexico or their home countries, no questions asked, without an asylum screening, very similar to the Title 42 pandemic policy that ended in May. They have also proposed mandatory detention for the migrants who would be allowed to make a case for asylum. And finally, they would be open to a nationwide expansion of something called expedited removal, which is a fast-tracked deportation process that is currently limited to the border region.

AMY GOODMAN: As negotiations on Biden’s emergency funding request continue, we’re joined from the Cannon Rotunda on Capitol Hill by Democratic Congressmember Greg Casar of Texas. Our co-host Juan González just joined Congressman Casar for a congressional briefing Tuesday on U.S. Latin America policy.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Congressmember Casar, if you can first respond to what’s being negotiated at this point, progressive Democrats saying to President Biden, “You not only have to negotiate with the Republicans. You have to negotiate with us,” which includes you, Congressmember Casar?

REP. GREG CASAR: Good morning, Amy. Thanks so much for having me on.

And it is a really scary time here on Capitol Hill, where Republicans in the Senate are asking Democrats to cave in and hand them some of the worst changes to our immigration system in decades. Republicans and Democrats alike have both said that they support continued assistance to Ukraine, but the Republicans have held that hostage and have said, “First you’ve got to throw immigrant families under the bus.” And like you’ve described, this would mean actually closing legal pathways for migration here and accelerating the deportation and separation of immigrant families.

And so, in the mainstream media, this is often being reported as, “Well, are they going to trade border security for Ukraine money?” But this has nothing to do with changing or improving a situation at the border. What the Republicans are demanding is making it less easy to legally migrate, and therefore fuel more irregular migration. What they’re talking about is punishing families that are already in our cities and communities, dismantling the asylum system that we established after the enormous we made after World War II, turning refugees away. It is sick.

And so, what we’re asking is for the Biden administration to stop encouraging these talks, asking Leader Schumer to just step in and say, “If we want to debate Ukraine, we should debate Ukraine, but we shouldn’t start throwing immigrant families under the bus.” Next thing, they may ask for an abortion ban nationwide in exchange for something. Are they going to be asking for a ban on gay marriage next time? We just can’t have Democrats doing the Republicans’ dirty work here.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Congressman, as we discussed at the briefing yesterday, the United States has spent over $330 billion the past 20 years on agencies that do border enforcement, and yet we have record numbers of people attempting to cross the border. What can be done to get Congress to finally address the issue of a much more comprehensive reform of our immigration system?

REP. GREG CASAR: We have to actually want to improve the system for folks in the United States and for people migrating here. Unfortunately, the right wing wants to keep the system as broken as possible so that they can then complain about it. It’s the classic case of the arsonist trying to blame the firefighters for the flames.

And so, in this case, Republican policy — and, frankly, even some conservative and neoliberal Democratic policy — has only fueled greater challenges. Those policies are things like sanctions, imposing harsh sanctions in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, then forcing people who are starving, in part because of our policies, to migrate, and then complaining about it. Instead, we should make sure that people, if they want to be able to stay at home, stay in their home countries, that they can, and then open up legal pathways for migration. Instead, the Republican proposals we’re dealing with, actually what they mostly would help is cartel profits, because what they want to do is close legal pathways for migration, force people that we are helping starve have to move, oftentimes have to pay criminal organizations, and then the Republicans get to complain about it. It is a toxic brew that Democrats shouldn’t be playing into.

Instead, we should say, “Let’s open up more legal pathways for people to migrate here. Let’s open up the ability for folks to ask for parole and get on a plane and apply and come here and get a work permit quickly.” That would relieve a lot of what you’re seeing on the TV, Fox TV cameras on the border, and actually make things better for people in Latin America and in the United States. But instead, we insist on punishing Latin America, pushing people out of their home countries, and then not opening up legal pathways for them to migrate.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I wanted to put this question to you. You and Congressmember Greg Casar were part of a panel yesterday called “200 Years Is Enough: Moving Past the Monroe Doctrine Toward a New Era in U.S.-Latin American Relations.” Can you put this current push at this moment — right? — because the House speaker says they’re going to go home at the end of the week if they don’t get their way on border, Biden is desperate to get money for Ukraine, and so we don’t know at this point what’s going to happen. McConnell says there’s no way they can do this before Christmas. But put this in that broader 200-year context. I mean, you wrote that incredible book that’s now a textbook in so many college classes, called Harvest of Empire. Talk about how this fits in with the Monroe Doctrine and what that was.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, yes. Well, the Monroe Doctrine for 200 years has been the basic policy that the United States has pursued in the entire Western Hemisphere, but especially toward Latin America, telling European and other colonial powers, “You stay out of the Western Hemisphere. This is our backyard,” in essence. And it’s been used repeatedly by U.S. presidents and congresses to invade countries in Latin America, to foment clandestine or covert operations to remove leaders that weren’t sufficiently obedient to the United States. And I think it’s never really been repealed or refuted by U.S. leaders. I mean, there was a small attempt by John Kerry during the Obama administration to claim it was over, but President Trump backtracked on that and went back to the bullying of the United States in Latin America. And I’m wondering, Congressman Casar, your sense of the prospects for being able to have a new policy for Latin America in the future.

REP. GREG CASAR: It’s time for us to leave that 200-year Monroe Doctrine legacy behind us. And I think a small number of progressives who start to open up a window to a new relationship in Latin America are going to carve the path forward here, because instead of spending our limited resources on things you’ve covered, Juan — overthrowing the government in Guatemala in the ’50s, the invasion of Cuba, arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua, currently continuing to starve instead of feed people in places like Cuba and Venezuela — instead of engaging in that, that, honestly, doesn’t help in Latin America and doesn’t help us here, we can create a new partnership.

I was just in Chile for nearly the anniversary of us helping overthrow the Chilean government of Allende back in the day. And part of the reason we did that is because we wanted to protect United States and Chilean elites in the copper industry. That was disastrous. So many people died. It helped no one. But instead, finally, we could have a conversation about how do we support democracy and support one another in rising authoritarianism; how, as we head towards a renewable and climate more resilient future, they have, instead, the resources for us to create batteries. How do we create those together and make sure working-class people in Chile and the United States benefit, not just big corporations? There is a real ability for us to work with Latin America to tackle the climate crisis, beat back authoritarianism, address migration. That would actually benefit our constituents and our communities. And I think folks would get reelected on that kind of work in Latin America rather than continued invasions.

AMY GOODMAN: And we just have 10 seconds. Do you think President Biden hears you? What do you think is going to happen? Your prediction, Congressman?

REP. GREG CASAR: What I can tell you for sure is that you’re going to see increased pressure coming from Hispanic, Black and Asian members of Congress, progressive members of Congress. You’re going to see us hosting press conferences, delivering letters and saying we’re going to be a “no” vote on this whole package.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Greg Casar, Democrat from Texas. We’ll also link to Tuesday’s congressional briefing, “200 Years Is Enough: Moving Past the Monroe Doctrine Toward a New Era in U.S.-Latin American Relations.”

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Sonyi Lopez. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, for another edition of Democracy Now!

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