Congress closed out the week with both Republicans and Democrats talking about immigration, although for very different reasons. Republicans are focused on the surge of migrants at the southern border, while Democrats are focused on Dreamers and farm workers.
The House passed two immigration measures Thursday, mostly along party lines. It’s not clear if either will make it through the Senate.
The American Dream and Promise Act, if signed into law, could put two million unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the country as minors - so-called Dreamers - on a path to citizenship. Each member of the Oklahoma delegation voted against it. Rep. Stephanie Bice, (R) OK-5, released a statement explaining her vote and saying that, given the recent surge in illegal crossings at the border, an amnesty program is "the last thing we need."
"This proposal," Rep. Bice continued, "only incentivizes illegal immigration and will prompt even more parents to send their children across our borders, exacerbating the current problem."
That problem, which Republicans have labeled the 'Biden border crisis', is that more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally are now being held at overcrowded detention facilities. Republicans say the dramatic increase is the direct result of President Biden's decision to reverse President Trump's border policies, and has put Democrats, who were highly critical of those policies, on the defensive.
"The Biden administration has this under control," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D) CA-12, at her weekly news conference, "and I think it's important to know that the difference between the attitude toward the people and the children is so different in just these two months versus what happened in the last four years."
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would give legal status to a million farm workers and overhaul the guest worker visa program. 30 Republicans joined Democrats in passing it, but none from Oklahoma.
In a statement, Rep. Frank Lucas, (R) OK-3, said, “There’s no doubt that visa reform is desperately needed but the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a grossly irresponsible way to enact reform."
President Biden’s cabinet filled out more this week. The Senate narrowly approved, 51-40, New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American ever to hold a cabinet post. Both Oklahoma Senators voted against her nomination, citing concerns with her stance on fossil fuels.
Both Sen. Lankford and Sen. Inhofe were also in the minority in opposing the nomination of former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
"Xavier Becerra is not fit to be our Secretary of Health and Human Services," said Sen. Inhofe, (R) Oklahoma, on the Senate floor, "and I say this because of his appalling track record, disrespecting the sanctity of life."
Protecting religious freedom is the reason Sen. Lankford gave for voting not to advance the Equality Act out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Lankford feels the measure, intended to prevent gender identity discrimination, would itself discriminate against religious institutions.
"We don’t oppose equality," Sen. Lankford, (R) Oklahoma, said during the committee hearing, "but we do oppose legislation when you take the rights of one and dismiss the rights of others."
As with the immigration bills, the Equality Act also faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where, at least for now, the filibuster remains in place and thus 60 votes are needed for passage.