The Biden administration has been busy with legislation meant to change Trump’s immigration system
President Joe Biden has spent much of his time and effort in his first month in office on immigration policy. Between multiple executive orders and his hefty immigration bill, Biden reversed many of Trump’s immigration policies and is adopting more lax policy regarding migrants currently in the United States who entered illegally.
On Biden’s first day of presidency, he sent the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, to Congress. The bill includes plans on pathways to citizenship, border control and addresses the root cause of migration.
One of the most notable sections detail an eight year pathway to citizenship for undocumented imigrants. This applies to applicants who are physically present in the United States on or before Jan. 1, 2021.
Additionally, the bill would implement more technology into the security system at the border. The bill includes a $4 billion plan of assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, in order to keep people from fleeing the country.
Since the bill is so dense, most politicians on both sides favor some parts of the bill, but not all.
“I salute the president for putting forth the legislation that he did. There are others who want to do piecemeal, and that may be a good approach too. That’s up to the Congress to decide,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi(D-CA) about the bill, meaning that the House does not have the votes to pass this bill and will attempt to pass stand alone immigration laws.
Biden signed an executive order at the beginning of February that set up a task force under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This task force will try and reunite about 700 children with their parents who they were separated from during the Trump administration.
Biden signed two additional executive orders that day which ordered a review of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, curtailed asylum, slowed legal immigration into the US and suspended visas due to COVID-19.
The first migrant facility for children opened under Biden on Feb. 22 in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The facility was briefly used under Trump’s administration, and reopened due to need. This facility along with about 200 others is used to detain minors who cross the border unaccompanied, until they can be placed with relatives, which can take weeks or months. Biden is facing backlash for continuing the Trump administration’s system of detaining these minors.
Influx centers like the one in Texas will have to open due to the lower capacity at the permanent centers due to COVID-19 social distancing rules and capacity limits. While Trump restricted entry due to COVID-19, the Biden administration has decided not to deny minors entry, which is straining the facilities.
The Biden administration is moving away from the law enforcement focus from Trump’s presidency, “but the children always received good care and that never wavered between administrations,” says Mark Weber, spokesman for the agency that oversees services for migrant children.
Biden has also taken action to reverse the Migrant Protection Protocols program which began in 2019 under the Trump administration. After much deliberation, the protocol decided that immigrants should be returned to Mexico and wait for their case to be heard after reaching the Southern border. The Biden administration announced a plan in February to begin processing about 25,000 individuals with claims in the program to be admitted into the United States, instead of waiting in Mexico.
Biden terminated the national emergency concerning the Southern Border that President Trump called in 2019, which allocated funds to the construction of the border wall.
Biden also terminated Trump’s executive orders that banned immigration from seven countries in an attempt to stop terrorists and criminal activity. The seven countries were chosen from a recommendation that the DHS provided after determining they had what they believed to be inadequate national safety and public-safety information.
“We will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States,” said Biden about reversing the order.
One of the issues Biden ran into during the 2020 presidential election was immigration, promising a stark contrast to Trump’s crackdown on the border. The response to his policy so far has been mixed, with some Democrats loving his bold plan and others saying it isn’t enough, while some Republicans say it is too much.
The effects of new policy have yet to be seen, although many are worried his policies could cause a potential crisis at the border, while others are saying it is not progressive enough. Whether or not Congress will act on legislation regarding the matter has yet to be seen.