One of the issues that helped to propel Joe Biden to victory over President Trump was immigration. For many, the visions of seeing children locked in cages and sleeping on concrete floors, while shivering underneath foil blankets was far more than they could handle. While most Americans agree that the United States needs to do something to address immigration, they found Trump's wrecking ball approach to the issue far too much to digest. Biden has promised to reverse many of the immigration policies instituted by his predecessor in an effort to restore America’s reputation as being a compassionate, humane country that lives up to the encryption etched into the statue of Liberty, which reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your Huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Mass Deportation Under Obama
There is something to keep in mind in regards to any proposals Biden may have in regards to modernizing the immigration system in America. Critics will be quick to remind him that he was vice president during the Obama administration. This could be weaponized and used against Biden as he moves forward with a progressive immigration agenda. Although the Obama administration approached the issue of immigration humanely, and advocated for the passage of laws which would offer asylum seekers pathways to citizenship, the administration was still responsible for the deportation of millions of people, and the expansion of family detention.
The massive levels of deportations that took place during president Obama’s time in office, is something that has not been forgotten by many in the Latin community. This is evidenced by the support Donald Trump received from the latin community in the last election. Mr. Trump’s support among latino voters grew from 28 percent in the 2016 election to 32 percent in the 2020 election. Despite the visible contrast and narratives created around Trump’s no tolerance policy and the documented maltreatment and abuses committed against children and asylum seekers. Trump’s rhetoric regarding the support of the rule of law, and his self proclamation of being the defender of religious freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic, helped him garner support among some blocks of the Latino voting block.
A Promise To Unite
The president-elect has stated that one of his top priorities within his first 100 days as president, is to reunite parents and their children who were separated at the border when Donald Trump's zero tolerance policy was instituted. Making good on this promise would go a long way in re- re-establishing the trust and assurance many in the Latino community would need to fully support family immigration policies proposed by president-elect Biden in the future. Another item that ranks high on Biden’s list of priorities is the Musulin travel ban Trump placed on travelers coming to the United States from 13 mostly African countries. Biden has vowed to overturn this policy on the first day of his presidency. Biden moving forward with his promise to halt the building of Trump's border wall is a move that will also be welcomed by indigenous groups, and environmental advocacy groups. This will most certainly go a long way with landowners in the region who have for a large part, been successful in staving off eminent domain by forcing the Trump administration to prove the government’s need to take their land in court.
Open Doors to Foreign Workers
One of the things that Biden has talked about often on the campaign trail is the importance of opening the nation’s doors to foreign workers. Biden has stated that as president, he would work with congress to ensure that the United States makes the process of obtaining temporary, and keeping valid work visas more flexible. Biden has also stated that he wants to establish safeguards requiring employers to pay their foreign workers a fair wage and guarantee their right to exercise their rights as designated through the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. This would give foreign workers the opportunity to join a labor organization if they desired. Obtaining a fair and livable wage for foreign workers in the United States helps ensure the same for all American workers.
Mr Biden has proposed a long list of changes to modernize immigration, and move the country forward, like increasing the number of permanent, employment based visas, creating mechanisms to decrease the number of visas for immigrants temporarily when unemployment reaches high levels in the United States. Biden also plans to establish a new category of visa which would allow municipalities and counties to petition for more immigrant visas to aid in the economic strategy of their region.
In terms of what Mr. Biden will be able to check off of his list will depend on his ability to negotiate with congressional members from across the aisle. Many of the things Biden has vowed to do can be done through executive order, however, policies enacted through executive orders can always be overturned by another administration, and Biden knows it. Biden will have to find a way to make good on his promises in the short term, and work towards a permanent congressional solution simultaneously to protect any gains he makes towards modernizing the immigration system in the United States.
Lazaro Law Group, Managing Attorney