Everyone knew that Joe Biden had a lot to prove when he assumed office following Trump as the 46th President of the United States. His election campaign promised a radical sweep of new policies within his first day, characterizing his administration’s attitude and commitment to change.
Thankfully, he delivered on the promises (and wishes of his voters) to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement and produce new mandates on the enforcement of mask-wearing in federal government buildings. He also shockingly announced an expansive set of proposed Bills, actions, and plans to tackle the issue of immigration in America. Immigration was a staple issue of the Trump presidency but featured to a small degree within the Biden election campaign.
The US. similar to of the UK, is known for having an arduous immigration process; the topic being an incredibly salient issue among the public.
Biden’s Immigration Reform
Biden announced that he was using executive action to roll back Trump’s attempts to exclude undocumented people from the census, end the so-called Muslim ban, and to reverse policy that prioritized the deportation of criminals. He also rescinded the declaration former President Trump used to divert funds to the wall on the US-Mexico border. These actions likely settled the nerves of many, along with indicating Biden’s commitment to change.
However, the administration illustrated that their main aim was not to just simply reverse the actions of Trump, but to introduce new policy to progress American society and mend the divides caused by xenophobia and racism. In an act that further demonstrated Biden’s new focus on adjudication rather than enforcement, the president extended protected immigration status to 4000 Liberians fleeing their country due to armed conflict and an Ebola outbreak. He also emphasized plans to address the root causes of migration by sending aid to Central American countries suffering from climate crises, violence, and poverty.
Additionally, Biden cemented his administration’s focus on immigration by introducing the proposed US Citizenship Act 2021. If passed by Congress, this act will allow undocumented immigrants (who entered the country before the 1st January 2021) to apply for legal status. The bill, if passed, will also make undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for a green card after 5 years, subject to the passing of background checks and payment of taxes. These individuals would then be able to apply for citizenship after 3 years of holding a green card, setting up a clear 8 year long route for immigrants which was previously absent.
Alongside this, he underlined his support for the DACA program—a measure that Trump tried to remove—which allows those brought into the US as children without legal documents access to temporary work visas and protection against deportation.
Biden’s action on his first day in office surprised pro-immigration activists, particularly as immigration was not a central issue central in his campaign. Many expected him to follow President Obama’s footsteps, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his Presidency, but did not actually commit until his fifth year.
Biden’s policy sets the scene for the future of his Presidency; it is clear that his administration is taking a more sympathetic and humane approach than its predecessor. Despite this surprising attitude, Biden’s policy is not perfect.
Many of us are disillusioned as a result of the chaos of the Trump presidency, and believe that anything is better than Trump’s years in office. However, for America to progress into a fair and accepting society once again, the Biden administration should be critiqued and held accountable when necessary.
Evaluating the The US Citizenship Act 2021
The US Citizenship Act 2021 sounds idyllic, but it is evident that it could face a great deal of trouble getting through the Senate, with many suggesting that 60 Senators will need to vote in favor to ensure the bill is passed. Furthermore, even is the bill is approved, it will leave many undocumented immigrants facing uncertainty and instability. An 8-year wait for citizenship is not ideal for some, and completely impossible for others.
The lengthy route does not take into account other societal factors that influence the lives of immigrants, such as poverty, employment struggles, racism, and lack of healthcare, all of which create barriers for individuals in reaching the citizenship stage. The Bill also does not support immigrants entering the US after the 1st January 2021, making the course of their lives in America an unknown factor.
Moreover, the introduction of pro-immigration policy so soon after Biden’s inauguration and the Capitol insurrection could have troubling effects among Republicans and Trump voters and incite xenophobic and racist attacks.
Biden’s inauguration speech and his entire campaign emphasized uniting America as his main aim. However, rapid introduction of these policies without working on unity could lead to deeper and more complex divides.
Ultimately, Biden has demonstrated that humanity is a central theme of his administration, and that the future could bring a more accepting America for immigrants. It is important though to acknowledge that comparing Biden policy to Trump policy is unsustainable, as it hinders criticism and blinds us to wrongdoings, even if they are less diabolical.
The support for immigrants needs to be strong. After all, America is a nation built and sustained by immigrants.