Immigration reform so divisive that even Democrats can't agree

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

Is the surging immigration crisis the biggest challenge for the still new Biden administration?

I wouldn't say the immigration crisis is the biggest policy challenge, that's probably the coronavirus and getting the economy back on track and maybe a little bit of foreign policy, but it's certainly one of the biggest political challenges.


Immigration has emerged as the third rail of American politics, something that really divides the left and the right, it's really divisive amongst Americans, and it's almost impossible for policymakers to come to an agreement and find reforms that they agree upon to do anything about this issue. There's still a large number of illegal aliens living in the country. And as we've seen in recent weeks, there's a surge of children, unaccompanied minors, arriving at the southern border who are required by law, the US is required by law to take in, and process their asylum claims here in the United States, creating the perception that President Biden has essentially opened the US borders. And it's a real political vulnerability for him that Republicans are going to try to exploit into the midterm elections in 2022.

How are politics getting in the way of the immigration policy Biden wants to implement?

Biden's preferred immigration reform would involve essentially reforming the legal immigration program, increasing the numbers of foreigners who are allowed to come here, and most controversially, providing a path to citizenship for people who came here illegally who have been working in living here for many, many years. This issue's so divisive that the Biden plan probably can't even pass the Democratic controlled House and is going to go nowhere in the Senate as long as the super majority requirement exists, that requires Republican votes to pass legislation. The House, instead, this week, did pass two bills, one of which gives a pathway to citizenship for adult residents of the United States who were brought here illegally as children, and two, provides a pathway to citizenship for agricultural workers who have been here a long time. These bills are kind of the low-hanging fruit of immigration reform where Democrats can agree. They don't yet agree on a much broader reform that would give a broader pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens or change the amount of numbers coming into the country. Both these bills unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate because of the politics and this is going to be a tricky issue that will probably be one of the defining issues of the 2020 midterms, unless President Biden can convince the Mexican government to try to help him keep the numbers of migrants coming from Central America down.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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