The Left-Wing Network Supporting Border ‘Welcome Centers’

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After the electoral victory of 2020, the network of far-left immigration radicals in and out of government is gaining strength, and turning their attention to ambitious projects like the creation of what they call migrant “welcoming centers,” discussed in a Friday, March 19, press conference cohosted by a number of immigration groups and pitched as “the new Ellis Island.”

This is the third press conference TAC has covered which has featured a network of left-wing non-profits, buoyed by numerous powerful politicians like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Victoria Escobar (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL). What has become clear is that this network is potent, and has an agenda; they claim credit for delivering such states as Arizona and Georgia to the Democrats. 

At a January 27, 2021, press conference TAC covered, members of Congress including Jayapal, Garcia, and Ocasio-Cortez, introduced what they called “Roadmap to Freedom Resolution.” The legislative wish list included full amnesty and citizenship from most illegal aliens, the acceptance of all asylum seekers, and defanging ICE. During that press conference AOC and others called for “ending the militarization” of the border. 

Thus far, this group has been vague as to how this will take shape, but this new press conference provided more details. Fernando Garcia, the Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR), provided his vision for “welcoming centers”:

The good intentions of this administration they have not come with more resources on the ground. We’ve been calling for immediate and massive resources for rebuilding an infrastructure that doesn’t exist on the border. I’m not talking about detention centers or border walls. What we’re talking about is this concept of building welcoming centers along the U.S./Mexico. Welcoming centers that will surround families and children and refugees with necessary services: healthcare, vaccination testing, even to buy a ticket to unify with the families.

Garcia’s group BNHR plays an important role in this network. BNHR is an open-borders group which operates primarily along the border. While it shows a modest $730,628 in assets, according to Guidestar, it is one of several national left-wing non-profits which support the network. Los Unidos, formerly called La Raza, is another sizable national organization. But the network is especially buoyed by numerous local left-wing non-profits which provide enormous support on the ground. 

Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA), whose statewide coordinator Adriana Cadena was featured in the press conference, is one example. Other local groups which support this network include the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Florida Immigration Council, and COPAL MN. 

The ultimate goal is full amnesty for everyone here illegally; the U.S. Citizenship Act, proposed by the Biden administration and introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) aims to accomplish just that. In the meantime, this network is looking to score incremental victories. 

The House recently passed two substantial bills related to immigration: the American Dream and Promise Act (ADPA) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA). Rep. Escobar spoke at the press conference about the importance of these bills and how this network helped make them possible:

Yesterday we passed the Dream and Promise Act as well as the Farmworker Modernization Act, two pieces of legislation which would not have been possible without your activism and your advocacy. You know, frequently when we celebrate the passage of legislation in Congress…we neglect to thank the people who did the work to get us to this point. I want the public and the media to understand that none of this is possible without the activists and advocates on the ground.

The ADPA would legalize all the so-called Dreamers, those who arrived illegally as minors. The FWMA, meanwhile, “would create a program that allows agricultural workers and their families to earn legal status and would make changes to the H-2A program,” according to Idaho Press.

This agenda has run into reality, as an influx of migrants approaches the U.S. from the south. In February 2021 alone, Border Patrol apprehended more than 100,000 individuals at the border.

At the height of the influx of migrants to the border in 2019, U.S. Border Patrol also apprehended more than 100,000 in May, but after President Trump negotiated deals with Mexico and others called the Migration Protection Protocols, those numbers fell sharply. By January 2020, border apprehensions had fallen to 36,000. In the first months of the Biden administration, the numbers have already returned to a new peak.

Republicans, particularly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have highlighted this crisis, and BNHR was none too happy. In a statement on behalf of BNHR, Garcia wrote:

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s delegation to the border represents an abhorrent dog and pony show by the Republicans to further their own political game and distort the reality of the region and situation, with the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant children and families as the centerpiece. The real crisis we are witnessing is a moral and political one precipitated by our lawmakers’ failure to pass inclusive and just immigration reform over the past decade. We believe that the Biden administration has the right intentions; however, we need to see those intentions become actions. If we are to truly live up to our values as a welcoming nation, we must invest resources in the construction of Welcoming Centers with comprehensive services including housing, legal assistance, and COVID-19 tests and vaccines for asylum seekers, as well as more asylum judges and officers to process cases in a timely manner.

In the press conference, he argued that the border crisis is manufactured:

It is not true; we do not have an immigration crisis at the border. Whenever anybody says that, it’s because they don’t understand immigration: they don’t want immigration happening or immigrants coming to United States, which goes against what we represent as a country—what we represent historically as a nation of immigration. If anything, what we have is a humanitarian challenge.

Both Garcia and Escobar claimed that this “humanitarian challenge” is caused primarily by the purported dismantling of institutions which they believe are supposed to be there to assist immigrants. The welcome centers, replete with free health care, free vaccines, housing assistance, and other welfare programs, are now a central aim of the immigration network. 

Many of these groups have been working for decades on their agenda; now, just as President Trump provided a beacon of hope for those who valued border security, President Biden represents a beacon of hope for an extraordinarily far-left immigration agenda. 

These groups feel a right to enact that agenda because they believe their work on the ground helped deliver decisive battleground states in 2020. As they say, “elections have consequences.”

Michael Volpe has worked as a freelance journalist since 2009, after spending more than a decade in finance. He’s based in Chicago.

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