With all the hype and fearmongering about illegal immigration, it came with little amazement that President Biden’s State of the Union address would allude to the same fears of a crisis and hints of an invasion at the border that we hear from MAGA pundits across all media platforms.

“In November, my team began negotiations with a bipartisan group of Senators. The result was a bipartisan bill with the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen … This bipartisan bill would hire 1,500 more security agents and officers, 100 more immigration judges to tackle the backload of 2 million cases, 4,300 more asylum officers, and new policies so they can resolve cases in six months instead of 6 years now.” 

President Joe Biden, State of the Union Address, 03/07/2023

Exposed

Biden later revealed the true nature of the policy proposal and it’s what we’ve all feared: a more streamlined process to deny asylum and remove immigrants that is open to abuse at the hands of asylum agents. The policy takes most asylum claims out of the hands of judges and places them directly on an institution known for its discriminatory practices that have so often led to the inhumane treatment of migrants.

“Look, if we change the dynamic at the border–people pay these smugglers $8,000 to get across the border because they know if they get by and are let into the country it’s 6 to 8 years before they get a hearing and it’s worth taking the chance. But, if it’s only 6 months… 6 weeks, the idea is that it’s highly unlikely that people will pay that money and come all that way knowing that they will be kicked out quickly.” 

President Joe Biden, State of the Union Address, 03/07/2023

Republicans

The president then excoriated conservative lawmakers for their inaction. Despite the problematic nature of the border bill, it gives Republicans everything they want aside from closing the border entirely — an impossibility considering Mexico is the US’s largest trading partner and communities along the border rely on access to both countries.

“The Border Patrol Union endorsed this bill. I believe if given the opportunity the majority of the House and Senate would endorse the bill as well. But unfortunately, politics has derailed this bill so far. I’m told my predecessor called members of the House and Senate to demand they block the bill. He feels this is a political win for me and a political loser for him. This is not about him, it’s not about me…”

President Joe Biden, State of the Union Address, 03/07/2023

MTG

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) decided to ignore the parents of Laken Riley who opted to remain out of the spotlight after their daughter was murdered. She heckled the president about Riley’s death because she was killed by an undocumented immigrant who was released into the US pending an asylum claim. Biden responded by saying:

“Laken Riley was killed by an illegal. But how many thousands have been killed by legals? To her parents I say, my heart goes out to you having lost children myself. I understand.”

President Joe Biden, State of the Union Address, 03/07/2023

No Mention

Despite reports about the positive economic impacts immigrants have from the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Development, it’s telling, although not uncommon, that not a single word was spoken about the economic growth created by immigrants.

Not to take anything away from the Black and Indigenous communities and their rich cultural histories, but also ignored and often left out of the conversation are the hundreds of years of vibrant cultures, food, and music immigrants have brought to the United States helping make it what it is today.

What to Expect

Conservative pundits and lawmakers will continue attacking the president despite him seemingly carrying water for them and trying to appease their xenophobia. By adopting far-right policy ideas like the bipartisan border bill, the White House could be miscalculating the damage that could be done with this strategy. MAGA conservatives will never vote for him.

Statement from DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Also as expected, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas echoed the president in a statement.

“I join President Biden and urge Congress to bring this bill to a vote. Only Congress can address our desperate need to hire more Border Patrol Agents and Officers and equip them with state-of-the-art security technology. Only Congress can provide the funds necessary to hire more asylum officers and immigration judges, charter more removal flights, and build more facilities.

“Congress must put partisan politics aside and work with this Administration to pass common-sense, effective solutions to the challenges at our border and across our country.”

Statement From Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center

Responding to the State of the Union address, Marisa Limón Garza, Executive Director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and New Mexico, said the following:

“The state of the border is complex and defies the easy answers and platitudes comprising much of the national conversation. The President speaks of a bipartisan consensus to ‘fix’ the border but ignores the fact that deterrence-based policies have a long history of failing when put into practice. Expanding legal migratory pathways and offering a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other immigrant communities are real and sustainable solutions.

“Republican leaders speak of ‘invasion’ and threat, all while ignoring how a vibrant and prosperous border drives a vibrant and prosperous America. Both sides emphasize restriction and exclusion while ignoring the real ways that border communities, every day, come together and bring order, safety, and humanity to our immigration system through the work of welcome. While taking care of vulnerable families presents genuine challenges, so does a growing politics of fear that encourages violence and threatens to undermine our laws and constitution.

“As the US immigration system becomes increasingly associated with the concept of ‘the border,’ the needs and experiences of border residents are often overlooked. We require access to fair and dignified work opportunities, affordable healthcare and housing, a sustainable environment, and protection against excessive policing — all of which are neglected in discussions dominated by how to manage immigration.

“Tonight’s addresses failed to capture those realities, a real missed opportunity. At the same time, thankfully, the words of politicians stuck inside a beltway bubble do not define the state of the border; the lives of our communities do. Regardless of the failures of politicians, ordinary people will continue to come together to make our border a place of order, safety, and humanity, to make our communities places of dynamism, discovery, exchange, and prosperity, and to make the state of the border — and the union — better for us all.”

Campaign Rally

While determining the impacts of State of the Union addresses is often dubious, it felt a lot more like a campaign rally than anything else. In due time we’ll see whether it helps or hurts Biden’s poll numbers — if anyone takes those seriously anymore.


The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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