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Rep. Delia Ramirez to Biden: Further Militarizing the Border Is Not the Answer to Immigration

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Democratic Congressmember Delia Ramirez of Illinois praises President Biden for proposing a path to citizenship in his State of the Union address on Tuesday for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. “My problem is the militarizing of the border,” she adds. Ramirez, who delivered a response to the State of the Union speech on behalf of the Working Families Party, says compassion should be at the center of the debate on immigration. “People are escaping poverty. People are escaping death,” she says.

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, as we go back to President Biden’s State of the Union, where he calls for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And let’s also come together on immigration, make it a bipartisan issue once again. We know we now have a record number of personnel working to secure the border, arresting 8,000 human smugglers, seizing over 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in just the last several months. We’ve launched a new border plan last month. Unlawful migration from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has come down 97% as a consequence of that. But American border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts. If we don’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border, and a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, those on temporary status, farmworkers, essential workers.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Democratic Congressmember Delia Ramirez, first Latina to be elected to Congress to represent Illinois. She delivered the Working Families Party’s progressive response to Biden’s State of the Union. She is a daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, the wife of a DACA recipient. She previously served in the Illinois state House after being elected in 2018, is a longtime community organizer, joining us now from the Cannon Rotunda on Capitol Hill.

Congressmember Ramirez, we last spoke to you as congressmember-elect. Welcome back to Democracy Now! You just heard President Biden, and, of course, you were right there in the House last night as he spoke. What he’s saying is, even if you don’t get to other parts, though we want you to support comprehensive immigration reform, at least, essentially, support militarization of the border. Your response to that, Congressmember Ramirez?

REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: I think — well, first of all, I appreciate what he said after, right? Which he said, “I want to make sure that we finally create a pathway for DREAMers,” and that we also do the same for those that have been here, migrant workers, essential workers. The reality is that the immigrant community, millions are essential workers. And so, if we go by that definition, then the response is: We are going to provide worker permits for the 12 million people who live in this country who are the reason our unemployment rate has gone down as much as it has. They are going to be the ones that are going to be able to work in those manufacturing companies, provide the supplies, create the supplies that we’re going to build now in America, as the president said.

My problem is the militarizing of the border. My family came here 40 years ago. There are people who are coming in now, not because they chose, “You know, let me just go ahead and cross the border and nearly die,” because, you know, it’s a luxury to do that. People are escaping poverty. People are escaping death. There are so many things happening. And so, to talk about securing the border, without executive action to do the things that we can do right now, which is truly create a pathway to citizenship — let’s start with DREAMers. But we have the ability to do that now. And we can’t begin to create a tension where we help and uplift one immigrant community at the expense of the other.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Congressmember Ramirez, you talked about, and often talk about, your mother being pregnant with you as she crossed the border. Now you have the Republicans in charge of the House, and they’re going to be holding hearings on the border, apparently. But you have President Biden’s new immigration plan, where he is effectively expanding the controversial public health restrictions again — that’s Title 42 — even as they’re declaring the pandemic over. Your thoughts about this?

REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: I said it last night, and I’ve said it over and over and over, and I think a number of congressional Hispanic members agree with me. We have to end Title 42, not expand it. That is our number one responsibility. We can’t continue to talk about being a country of immigrants, being a country that receives asylum seekers, and increase enforcements that are expanding Title 42. It’s unacceptable.

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Have Movements Pushed Biden to the Left? Rep. Delia Ramirez & Economist Dean Baker Respond to SOTU

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