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President Joe Biden faces the political risk that comes with great ambition.
As one of his first steps, Biden last week offered extensive immigration reform that would pave the way to US citizenship for an estimated 11 million people who are in the United States without authorization. It would also modify clauses to eliminate some of the harsh policies approved by President Donald Trump, such as trying to end protection for immigrants brought to the United States as children and restricting asylum.
It’s precisely the kind of action that Latino activists have desired, particularly after the tough strategy of the Trump era. But it must compete with the other legislative goals promised by Biden, including a $ 1.9 trillion plan to fight the coronavirus, an infrastructure package promoting clean energy initiatives and a “public option” to expand health insurance.
In the best of circumstances, implementing such a wide variety of laws could be difficult. But in such a divided Congress, it would be impossible. And that has Latinos, the country’s fastest-growing electoral bloc, worried that Biden and congressional leaders could scrap deals that greatly weaken the end product or don’t even approve something.
“This cannot be a situation where a simple visionary bill, a message bill, is sent to Congress and nothing happens with it,” said Marielena Hincapié, director of the National Center for Immigration Law. “There is an expectation that they will deliver and that there is a mandate now for Biden to be pro-immigrant without regret and have a political imperative to do so, and so do the Democrats.”
If, finally, Latinos feel betrayed, the political consequences for Democrats could last a long time. The 2020 elections had multiple alerts that despite Democratic efforts to create a multiracial coalition, Latino support could be at risk.
Biden was already causing skepticism among some Latino activists for his association with former President Barack Obama, who was called the “deporter-in-chief” for the record number of immigrants who were driven out of the country during his rule. Senator Bernie Sanders challenged Biden last year in the Nevada caucuses and the California primary, which served as the first thermometers for the Latino vote.
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