Juan Williams: A breakthrough on immigration?

Juan Williams: A breakthrough on immigration?

Here’s an idea.

You are likely to hear it from President BidenJoe BidenVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected BuzzFeed News finds Biden's private Venmo account Kid reporter who interviewed Obama dies at 23 MORE this week when he speaks to a joint session of Congress.

Biden will tell Congress that immigration reform is free money for the American economy.



Citizenship for millions of immigrants already working here opens the door to new tax dollars and increased consumer spending.

Now that’s a new look at immigration.

Suddenly, alarmist talk about scary immigrant caravans seems old. So, too, is former President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE’s screaming about immigrants as people bringing crime and drugs, and as “rapists” — and don’t forget his call to “Build the Wall.”

The big idea now is that Congress might actually get something done on immigration reform — for the first time in the 35 years since President Reagan’s 1986 bill.

That idea got a boost last week on three fronts.

First, Biden met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and bought into the idea of including immigration reform and its economic benefits in his infrastructure bill.

“I specifically urged the president to lean in on the question of getting some significant reform done in the Senate, if necessary through reconciliation,” Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy Senate Democrats ramp up push to limit Biden's war powers Democrats reintroduce legislation to ban 'ghost guns' MORE (D-N.J.) told reporters after the White House meeting.

If Biden includes immigration reform as part of the infrastructure deal, and the Senate rule-makers permit it to stay, it will be protected from sure death by a GOP filibuster.

Second, immigration reform gained new life as deals on small pieces of the big package began taking shape.

Sens. John CornynJohn CornynGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE (R-Texas) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw Biden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure MORE (D-Ariz.) introduced a bill to speed up processing for people seeking asylum, give them better legal representation and improve detention facilities. There is no cap on people seeking asylum.

Cornyn and Sinema are both members of a larger, bipartisan Senate group, brought together by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block MORE (D-Ill.). They are looking for a deal to attract at least 10 Republicans, which would allow a bigger bill to pass even with the filibuster in play.

That bigger bill, along the lines of House legislation that passed earlier, would tighten border security while also granting legal status to young people who arrived in the U.S. as children — the “Dreamers.” People who fled disasters and are currently in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status would also gain protections.

New ideas are also in play on steps to citizenship for the 12 million people in the country without proper authorization.

Americans want the bigger version of immigration reform, according to polls.

A Quinnipiac University poll from February found that 65 percent of adults believe that undocumented immigrants in the United States should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship. Just 20 percent said they should be required to leave.

The same poll found 83 percent support for allowing the “Dreamers” to remain in the United States and apply for citizenship. Just 12 percent were opposed.

The third big change helping immigration reform along is the backlash against anti-immigrant, “replacement theory” fear-mongering from the far right of the GOP.

House Republican leaders had no choice but to condemn a recent proposal to create an anti-immigrant “America First Caucus.”

With the largest share of immigrants currently coming from non-white countries in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the America First group called for limiting immigration to people in line with “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions."

They even praised past “pauses” to immigration intended to slow the arrival of Catholics, Jews and people from southern Europe.

The group, led by far right Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida QAnon site shutters after reports identifying developer MORE (R-Ga.), ignored the powerful history of immigrant contributions to the U.S. They said the nation is “threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country.”

The antagonism to anyone coming to America from anywhere but white-majority Western Europe is hard to miss.

That forced the GOP House leadership to distance themselves from the haters.


“America is built on the idea that we are all created equal, and success is earned through honest, hard work,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney: McCarthy should 'absolutely' testify before Jan. 6 commission Gohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Axios reporter Kadia Goba rejoining BuzzFeed News to cover GOP MORE (R-Calif.). “It isn’t built on identity, race or religion.”

And Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyAll House Republicans back effort to force floor vote on 'born alive' bill Cheney says she 'regrets' voting for Trump Cheney: McCarthy should 'absolutely' testify before Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House, also rebuked the America First Caucus by tweeting that “Racism, nativism and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.”

More rebuttals to the anti-immigration Republicans came from two former leaders in the party, former President George W. Bush and former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWhat's a party caucus chair worth? Biden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' MORE (Ohio). Both said they have major regrets over not passing immigration reform.

The 43rd president tried to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in his second term. He was thwarted when hard-right talk radio hosts used fear to whip up opposition to the bill.

Now Bush is promoting a new book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” and urging Congress not to fail again.

After Bush left office, it was the Republican House, then led by BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWhat's a party caucus chair worth? Biden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' MORE, that killed a Senate-passed bill in 2013 on immigration reform.

Call me an optimist, but this is starting to feel different. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.