Joe Biden’s campaign for president re-confirmed last week that the former vice president remains committed to a 100-day moratorium on deportations if he is elected president in November. 

“Like [Biden has] said before, as President he is committed … to a 100-day moratorium for people living and working in the United States,” said campaign spokesperson Jennifer Molina in an email to El Tecolote.

Biden, 77, first proposed the moratorium in February during a CNN Democratic presidential candidate town hall broadcast live from Las Vegas on the eve of the Nevada Causes. 

The then-floundering establishment candidate, reviled by many progressive Democrats for being too moderate, told the town hall audience, “Nobody is going to be deported in my first 100 days,” qualifying his promise with a confusing remark about convicted felons.

The night after the CNN town hall, Biden dined with a group of Latino activists and political operatives at a taco joint in Las Vegas. There, he doubled-down on his moratorium promise to Mayra Macias, the executive director of the Latino Victory Fund, who some say suggested the moratorium to Biden in the first place.

“Mayra really deserves a lot of the credit,” says a source present at the taco joint in Las Vegas. “She asked the Vice President in front of everyone there if he was 100 percent committed to the moratorium. He said yes and seemed totally sincere about it.”  

The following day—Saturday, Feb. 22—the Biden campaign got routed in the Nevada caucuses by a late surge of Latino support for Senator Bernie Sanders, who won the state with 47 percent of Nevada’s overall vote to Joe Biden’s 20 percent. 

That afternoon, the Latino Victory Fund issued a joint statement with the Biden campaign that said, “Vice President Joe Biden is absolutely committed to a 100-day moratorium on any deportations of people already in the United States.” 

An unnamed campaign spokesperson initially denied to Buzzfeed News that the moratorium was now campaign policy, before reversing themselves to confirm the campaign’s continued support for the moratorium, which immigration law experts say is within the powers of the presidency for Biden to declare if the presumptive Democratic nominee wins in November. 

“Removal proceedings are in immigration court,” says renowned immigrant defense attorney Amy Maldonado. “So the president can just tell the attorney general, ‘We’re going to pause all proceedings, review where we are, and assess next steps.’”

“We know abuses are happening,” Maldonado said, regarding the culture of rampant detainee abuse immigrant Americans endure in our national deportation machine.

Biden’s moratorium is a striking departure from the failed Obama coalition playbook of punishing immigrants to curry favor with GOP moderates.  

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Clark County Democratic Party’s 2020 Kick Off to Caucus Gala at the Tropicana Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia commons

Frontline agencies in the federal deportation machine—like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—have grown virtually unchecked in Washington by Congress and the White House since the controversial agencies were first-created with counterterrorism aforethought by the Homeland Security Act of 2001. 

Armed, emboldened, autonomous, and practiced at deploying authoritarian terror in immigrant communities, ICE and CBP are now among the federal patchwork of law enforcement units from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deployed by the Trump administration to “disappear” peacefully protesting U.S. citizens into unmarked minivans in cities like Portland, Oregon.

DHS has the most to lose from Biden’s moratorium promise to Latinx voters. Beyond functional changes within the agency’s operations on the first day of his presidency, Biden’s moratorium would instantly challenge long held assumptions in Washington about the inevitability of funding ICE, for example; or more broadly about the inherent patriotism of DHS. 

There has never been a meaningful challenge to deportations in Washington, at least not in recent memory. Biden’s moratorium would be an unprecedented first step, one that could reset the federal policy calculus keeping millions of hard-working American immigrant families living deep in the shadows of the pandemic economy.