Republicans slam Biden immigration order as election ploy

Republicans are accusing President Biden of trying to influence the 2024 election with his move to allow undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens an easier path to seek permanent residency, with some using a dubious claim that it would create more Democratic voters before November.

Former President Trump, who said he would reverse the Biden order if elected, said that Biden was just “using” the migrants.

“But he’s going to let everybody come in, because you know what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to sign these people up and register them,” Trump said during a rally in Wisconsin on Tuesday afternoon.

The cynical response to the relief action announced Tuesday, which would apply to an estimated 550,000 individuals, has plenty of inaccuracies.

The order streamlines paths to regularize their migratory status, including through work visa applications, and eliminates the need for certain migrants to leave the country to apply for permanent residency from abroad — a process subject to years-long waiting periods.

But it does not create an influx of hundreds of thousands of new citizens and would certainly not add to the rolls of eligible voters before the 2024 election.

Still, the fear of an influx of Democratic voters now or in the future is a core part of the GOP resistance to the Biden action.

Trump campaign national press secretary Karoline Leavitt similarly said in a statement earlier in the day that Biden was “giving mass amnesty and citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegals who he knows will ultimately vote for him and the Open Border Democrat Party.”

“That’s their game plan. Get as many registered to vote as they can,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). “They don’t care about citizens, they don’t care about these people. They’re just looking for voters, and they’re trying [to] do as much as they can before the next election because they’re seeing the writing on the wall.”

In response to Tuberville’s comment, one House Democrat made a quip about the famously slow speed of the federal immigration bureaucracy.

“If only USCIS worked this fast,” said Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas), referring to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes immigration applications.

For Republicans on Capitol Hill who had rejected a Biden-backed border compromise plan earlier this year, the order also serves as validation of their distrust of him on border and immigration policy.

Biden earlier this month implemented another executive action intended to crack down on border crossings, turning away migrants seeking asylum on the border during days with a high number of daily encounters. Republicans had largely rejected a similar measure in a failed border bill compromise earlier this year.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Biden is trying to “trying to play both sides” with the pair of executive actions.

“The President may think our homeland security is some kind of game that he can try to use for political points, but Americans know this amnesty plan will only incentivize more illegal immigration and endanger Americans,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson, too, said Biden’s action “is proof-positive of the Democrats’ plan to turn illegal aliens into voters,” and that he expects it to be challenged in court and struck down.

In an event announcing the new measure and marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Tuesday, Biden said that the relief action was not a political move.

“Folks, I’m not interested in playing politics on the border or immigration. I’m interested in fixing it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again today, I will work with anyone to solve these problems. That’s my responsibility as president. That’s our responsibility as Americans,” Biden said.

And the White House has stressed that those eligible for the relief action are limited to a certain group.

“The eligible population is limited,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of Biden’s relief action in a press briefing Tuesday.

“Individuals who arrive now are not eligible — so we did try to give this a scope, if you will,” Jean-Pierre said.

Though Republicans widely portrayed the Biden order as a political calculation, some made a distinction between exactly what kind of voters would be affected by it in the upcoming election. Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) said in a post on the social platform X that Biden’s action was “an effort to appease their family members hoping to garnish their votes for the upcoming election.”

The direct beneficiaries of Biden’s new plan will all be unable to vote in the 2024 election, though their U.S. citizen spouses will.

Even in a best-case scenario, voting in the 2028 presidential election would be a long shot for undocumented beneficiaries who begin their permanent residency application immediately under the new policy.

It takes spouses of U.S. citizens at least 10 months to receive their green card, and then they must wait three years — and remain married — to be eligible to apply for naturalization, a process that takes on average eight months from the time of application.

Accounting for a 90-day early naturalization allowance, that means the quickest a beneficiary would become a U.S. citizen is about 50 months — and the 2028 election is 52 months and 20 days away.

One Republican who has advocated for immigration reform avoided the misleading claims of new voters when responding to Biden’s order — but nonetheless assessed that it was a political move.

“President Biden’s latest Executive Order on immigration is a blatantly political move, of questionable constitutionality, in an election year,” Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said in a statement.

“These Executive Orders are counterproductive and will do nothing to alleviate the ongoing chaos at our southern border. [Department of Homeland Security] personnel are overwhelmed, and Border Patrol agents can barely keep up with the influx of people, including dangerous individuals, crossing into our country.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) argued that the Biden order contributes to policies that incentivize illegal migration.

“People realize that if you make it here, President Biden’s going to let you stay, and you’ll be able to get on a pathway to citizenship,” Cornyn said. “That’s been a huge magnet, and it’s going to attract even more people.”

Al Weaver, Brett Samuels, and Alex Gangitano contributed reporting.

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