With a new administration in office, many ponder what changes are expected to follow for immigration policy and its implications on the affected populations in the following months. Before becoming President, Joe Biden made immigration reform an immediate priority for his campaign, leading to high expectations from immigration organizations and those directly affected by potential changes. Since his inauguration in January, Biden has made ambitious decisions that with time could prove fundamental to moving in the right direction for changes in immigration policy. Some also call for more permanent and immediate solutions involving reform of policies that continue to cause harm to immigrants and asylum seekers.
So far Biden has focused on removing Trump’s series of executive orders and policies regarding immigration that received intense criticism of those policies as being direct threats to the safety of migrants attempting to enter the US. Biden stated, “I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” after signing 3 executive orders on February 2nd that center around issues left unresolved by the Trump administration. The first executive order was a direct response to address the separation of families at the U.S. border, to account for the approximately 545 children whose parents have not been found. A task force would attempt to locate the children separated from their parents because of the “Remain in Mexico” policy from April to June 2018 (Rodriguez).
Biden also called upon a revisal of the Remain in Mexico policy (formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocol), which exposed the dangers asylum seekers face when denied refuge at the border. The termination of the Trump administration’s MPP was a much-anticipated response to the humanitarian crisis at the border; the concern lies in how much longer the asylum seekers are expected to wait at the border before their case is revised. February 19th marked the official statement for migrants stuck at the border in Mexico to allow their entrance into the United States, depending on the time it takes for cases to be decided. Concerns extend to the uncertainty of these proceedings, “People are incredibly hopeful …, but there also is a lot of anxiety and fear that somehow if they do the wrong thing and they’re not at the right place at the right time, they might miss out,” Leiner said (Spagat, Watson). As of now there are still many migrants living in tent encampments, which continue to be exposed to a variety of dangers. The third executive order seeks to examine the policies and guidelines that are deemed as obstacles to obtaining citizenship or residency in the United States, and a push towards inclusiveness in immigration (Rodriguez).
Biden’s decision to rescind the travel ban of citizens from six Middle Eastern countries, is another example of the administration’s effort to fix immigration policy that has pushed a narrative harmful to Muslim Americans. People affected by the travel ban who have relatives in the US have had to endure a form of family separation for the past four years. Biden’s decision to rescind the ban will “lift a persistent cloud of hopelessness and uncertainty” for families in the US and abroad, Farhana Khera, executive director of the nonprofit Muslim Advocates, said in a statement. The work is far from being over though, as one wonders what could prevent, say another president from enacting a different travel ban that seeks to ostracize immigrant communities. Advocates of the No Ban Act feel that such legislation is essential to ensure no future administration pushes immigration agenda that pushes harmful rhetoric (Narea). Unfortunately, many families affected by the travel ban continue to await proceedings that will address immigration backlogs where uncertainty remains.
Efforts that hope to address the situation of multiple vulnerable immigrant groups, call for more permanent resolutions, such as insistence on passing legislation like the No Ban Act. Temporary solutions like Biden’s executive orders have the power to be influential but are not sufficient to be upheld by every governing body in the U.S., as seen with the recent blockage of the new administration’s 100-day halt to deportation flights by a Texas federal judge. ICE has continued the deportation flights of several Cameroonians, despite knowing that those deported had either been imprisoned, beaten, gone into hiding or completely disappeared during the ongoing civil conflict in Cameroon (Borger). The distress caused by the civil war has only been augmented by the lack of protection and poor treatment by ICE, and many will continue to face deportation. Much needed reform will be met with resistance, thus conveying how one milestone will not be enough to provide solutions for asylum seekers in danger.
Biden’s urgency to call upon one of the most ambitious immigration plans since 1986, (which legalized 3 million people) has given hope to many individuals seeking legal residency (Shear). The shift to push pro-immigration legislation seeks to redefine immigration policy that would be more inclusive, and amends the harm done by the previous administration. Most recently, Vice President Kamala Harris has been appointed the head political figure to address immigration issues, specifically through diplomatic efforts in Central America’s Northern Triangle and Mexico. Advocates feeling hopeful as a result of the Biden administration’s recent course of actions regarding immigration have been cautious of labelling such changes as solutions, as these are merely steps in the right direction toward protecting immigrants and asylum seekers alike.
“Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize Our Immigration System.” The White House, The United States Government, 25 Jan. 2021, www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/20/fact-sheet-president-biden-sends-immigration-bill-to-congress-as-part-of-his-commitment-to-modernize-our-immigration-system/.
Michael. “Biden to Announce Broad Plan to Reverse Trump Immigration Policies.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/us/politics/biden-immigration-policies.html.
Narea, Nicole. “Biden Is Ending Trump’s Travel Ban.” Vox, Vox, 20 Jan. 2021, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/1/20/22235986/biden-trump-travel-muslim-ban.
Rodriguez, Sabrina. “Biden Signs Executive Orders on Family Separation and Asylum.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 3 Feb. 2021, www.politico.com/news/2021/02/02/biden-executive-orders-family-separation-464816.
“US to Resume Deporting Asylum Seekers after Judge Rejects Biden Order.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Feb. 2021, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/01/us-immigration-deportations-ice-biden-administration.