Within his first day of office, President Biden signed several executive orders and proposed a broad immigration bill in an attempt to undo harsh immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration.
Riding his campaign on the promise of immigration reform, keeping families together, and protecting programs such as DACA and TPS, the Biden administration has committed to create more pathways to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people in the United States. However, Biden’s promises of immigration reform come after the Obama-Biden administration of 2008 to 2016, where the Obama administration created harmful detention centers and deported more undocumented migrants than the Trump administration.
The images of majority Central American children in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border during both the Obama and Trump administration enraged immigration justice advocates, who called for the end of family separation and the move towards immigration reform.
In order to address these human rights injustices and set a new plan for the future, the Biden administration issued a 100-day halt on most deportations in order to re-focus Homeland Security’s priorities. With this in mind, President Biden’s promises for immigration reform must not only undo the damage done by the Trump administration, but the Obama administration, taking accountability for the egregious human rights violations inflicted onto the migrant and undocumented community.
One of the dozens of executive orders signed by President Biden included a proclamation halting funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, terminating the project that was heavily advanced by the Trump administration. Following through on his promise to halt funding for the controversial border wall, Biden called the wall and Trump-era immigration policies “draconian” in a phone call released by the White house to the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Biden also signed orders to revoke strict immigration policies that forced asylum seekers looking to join migrant protection programs to stay in Mexico rather than the U.S.; ended the travel ban that heavily affected Muslim countries; reinstated deportation protections for Liberian immigrants; strengthened DACA to allow for new applicants as well as protecting the program and mandated that undocumented peoples be included in the Census. These orders and memorandums were put into action to bring temporary security to those who were attacked and targeted by the Trump administration’s assault on immigration, with more permanent protections written in Biden’s proposed immigration bill.
Outside of the immigration focused executive orders, Biden also revoked funding for the Keystone XL pipeline that was being constructed underneath sacred Indigenous waterways; rejoined the Paris Climate Accords for a commitment towards reducing climate change; rejoined the World Health Organization; extended the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures; extended the pause on student loan payments and enforced more preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Notably, Biden also signed an executive order barring discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, extending LGBTQ+ protections.
These executive orders are only part of the Biden administration’s work on immigration policy. President Biden has proposed the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, an immigration bill that includes an eight-year path to citizenship for the over 11 million undocumented peoples currently in the United States, with an accelerated pathway for DACA recipients and those under temporary protective status (TPS).
This eight-year path would include a five year process to temporary legal status or a green card and three years to citizenship if certain requirements are met. The Act will also strengthen labor protections for migrant workers, to ensure that their labor rights and wages are not infringed upon. The proposed immigration bill would also allocate $4 billion in funding to address increased levels of migration from Central American countries and to provide safe and legal channels of migration to the U.S.
This comes as a stark contrast to the racist rhetoric utilized by the Trump administration when discussing Central American migrant caravans, offering funding and resources to those seeking asylum in the U.S.
In terms of increased border security, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 calls for the supplementation of technology and infrastructure to current border patrol stations, though is notably less aggressive in terms of border militarization than Democratic immigration bills of the past. The bill has gone to Congress, but there are expected changes to be made as conservative Congress members express their disagreement.
While many of these seemingly progressive measures are sent into action, there is heavy uncertainty of what the next four years will bring for undocumented migrants. While the Biden administration is taking steps to create a fair, safe and equitable immigration system, there are many more problems that must be addressed to create a clear pathway to citizenship for all. The past four years of the Trump administrations assault on immigration policy and programs has left many uncertain of their migrant status in the U.S. on an everyday basis, the Biden administration must show up with comprehensive and consistent immigration reform.