For all the ways Joe Biden is surprising many by taking more uncharacteristically progressive stances on domestic issues, there is one area in particular where he so far bears little significant resemblance from “the former guy“.
While immigration has been an albatross around every president’s neck and there is no panacea for it, there are progressive, humane immigration policies administrations can pursue.
To be fair, President Biden ordered DHS to review Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
On his first day in office, he sent Congress a bill creating for undocumented individuals a pathway to citizenship, signed a memorandum directing the Homeland Security secretary to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and an executive order repealing Trump’s Muslim ban.
In February, he issued an executive order to create a taskforce for the purpose of reunifying families separated at the US-Mexico border.
However, if the work of distinguishing his immigration policies from Trump’s is not more delineated, it could hurt the Democratic party’s chances of retaining its majority in next year’s mid-term elections.
The Biden administration came under justifiable fire earlier this year when a bill with House Democrats to grant a pathway to citizenship to 11 million undocumented immigrants was beset with cynicism after multiple news outlets reported the White House reopened the Trump-era Carrizo Springs, Texas detention site for migrant children.
More than 14,000 migrant children are currently in Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) custody in 15 sites like the ironically named Fort Bliss tent city in El Paso, out of which are coming reports of spoiled food, extreme heat, suicide and escape attempts, and panic attacks.
CBS News cited court records quoting a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl held at Fort Bliss for 60 days, who claimed she got so anxious, she fainted. After reporting insomnia for three days, she was prescribed medication.
Vice President Kamala Harris‘ recent trip to the Southern Border did not include a stop at Fort Bliss.
That responsibility was left to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, who met scores of protesters yet defended camp conditions.
Founding director of the Border Network for Human Rights, Fernando García, who met with Harris during the trip, implored the Biden administration to take a more humane approach and “build welcoming centers to expedite family reunification” instead of “investing in jails.”
Four months ago, two months into the Biden administration, 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children languished in U.S. custody as the influx of asylum seekers increased.
Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Luz Lopez explained:
“We as a country should remain vigilant and hold any administration accountable, regardless of political party, with respect to our treatment of children seeking refuge, who are fleeing countries that are in turmoil, largely because of our geopolitical policies over the past several decades.”
In 2017, Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) informed 50,000 Haitian immigrants living in the United States with temporary protected status (TPS) they had 18 months to find residence elsewhere.
According to a report titled “The Invisible Wall” a coalition of immigrant rights groups authored, the Biden administration is using a controversial Trump-era public health order to refuse asylum seekers basic legal rights, and has deported more Haitian immigrants in several weeks than the Trump administration did in a year.
Remember the wall Trump promised to build that Mexico would pay for?
A month before Trump left office, 40 miles of new fencing had been built.
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden vowed to not to build “another foot” of Donald Trump’s wall.”
In April, a federal judge granted the federal government’s request to immediately seize of 6.6 acres of private property near Mission, Texas for wall construction.
Perhaps we can cut the president a little slack what with his exemplary response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, the American Jobs Plan, the American Rescue Plan, and gun violence.
After all, the mess immigration was before was only exacerbated under “the former guy“.
But it isn’t because Biden is a “nice guy.”
It’s because we still do not prosecute wealthy white employers for hiring undocumented immigrants enticed toward better prospects north of the border.
It’s because scores are fleeing gang violence and political strife we helped create through decades of imperialist policies.
Yet even though we should not place all the immigration woes at Biden’s feet, neither should we give him a pass.
He has a duty to do better than Obama, Clinton, both Bushes, Reagan, and, of course, “the former guy“.
Image credit: Progressive Charlestown