Many people are celebrating the win of Joe Biden over Trump and rightfully so. In immigration the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies are quite transparent. While Biden will certainly be better than Trump many people rightfully see him as an extension of the Obama era, which should actually give many people pause. Obama earned the nickname “Deporter in Chief” for his record number of deportations, many of which were the result of encounters with law enforcement for little or no offense. Obama like Trump used his executive power to create immigration policies including many fair and just policies like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In theory the President should be able to undo a previous administrations executive orders but the reality has proven to be quite different. Trump tried to undo DACA and failed after mismanaged attempts via the courts but with executive orders ending up at the Supreme Court it’s not entirely clear whether a conservative Supreme Court will allow a Biden administration to undo all of the immigration executive orders that Trumps administration has pushed through. Many of the policies currently in place can’t be undone overnight and will take a long time to unravel or dismantle should Biden even choose to do so. With a global Pandemic and flailing economy I seriously doubt very much will happen on the immigration front with everything else Biden will be having to deal with in the coming year.
What has Biden Promised or is expected to do:
Quickly revive the DACA program
End the Muslim Ban
Stop construction on the border wall
Enact a 100 day moratorium on deportations to allow his administration time for better guidance on immigration policies
Dramatically increase the Refugee Cap
Ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (Remain in Mexico Program)
It’s clear to me several of these things will have fairly important and direct effects on the programs at Heartland Alliance. A moratorium on deportations followed by a more equitable system of determining who has a valid asylum claim would certainly lower the pressure on people working at the National Immigrant Justice Center who seemed to be under enormous stress working through the courts advocating for people who were being deported. Increasing the Refugee Cap will allow for more refugees to be resettled by the UNHCR which means RICS can begin helping resettle more people again. Ending the Remain in Mexico program will mean more unaccompanied children and asylum seekers will be allowed to come into the US while their cases are processed.
What remains to be seen is the how quickly will the a President Biden act and how effective will his executive actions be? What legal challenges will they face and ultimately how will the Supreme Court rule on these legal challenges now that it’s packed with conservative justices. Will Biden also like Obama keep up high levels of deportations and continue to utilize and expand Department of Homeland Security immigration prison infrastructure? It seems like the temperature will be allowed to cool down on the rhetoric and new policies but the lasting effects from the current administration are likely going to take years to be unravelled and in some cases there may be nothing that can fix the damage done. The children who still have not been reunited with their families for example, even with a promised Biden task force to reunite them, might not be able to find the parents of many of these children.