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Biden administration to makeover US immigration policy

12 November 20200 comments

The administration of US President elect Joe Biden is set to reverse many his predecessor’s immigration policies, experts say.

After Mr Biden’s election win, US migration policy experts have analysed what the new administration will mean for migrants and asylum seekers in the US.

Among the changes will likely be issues continued support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DAFA) program and for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, both of which grant temporary conditional residency, with the right to work, to qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as minors.

There will also be an end to the construction of border wall structures along the US-Mexico border and draconian migrant protection protocols currently in use, experts says.

The US Migration Policy Institute (MPI) says in a new briefing document that President-elect Biden pledged during his campaign to reverse some of the most restrictive immigration actions undertaken during the Trump administration.

“This includes family separation and a travel ban on nationals from majority-Muslim countries. He also vowed to temporarily halt deportations, reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, increase refugee admissions, and halt construction of the border wall,” the paper said.

The policy brief outlines how new policy ideas and proposals that could begin to reshape a US immigration system that advances the US national interest.

“The near-total shutdown of asylum at the US-Mexico border, for example, does not represent a long-term strategy nor is it consistent with longstanding US values,” the paper says.

“Effective long-term solutions to deal with mixed flows of economic and humanitarian migrants entail processes to provide fair, efficient processing of asylum cases, including by having the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Division oversee the merits of border asylum cases to completion—an MPI recommendation the Biden campaign embraced.” It says.

The brief, among other proposals, also recommends the creation of multiagency reception centers near the border for one-stop screening of arrivals and speedy turnover to the relevant agencies.

During the Trump administration’s time in office it successfully altered the landscape of immigration policy — instituting two travel bans, one as he took the oath of office in 2017, and another in 2020 at the onset of COVID-19 that has now restricted travel for specific people in more than 10 countries.

It also attempted to undo the Obama-era DACA program.

The MPI analysis says Mr Biden has made several promises on regarding immigration.

These include ending the travel bans, a moratorium on deportations, refocusing arrests on public safety threats in the US, reuniting separated children with their parents and ending the public charge rule on migration claims.

The analysis says Mr Biden may be able to push through some of these promises through executive orders and that travel bans, and the reinstatement of DACA, which the Trump administration attempted to end, could be reversed with a just a memo.

The reinstatement of DACA could potentially open the program up to more than 400,000 young foreign nationals who were immediately eligible for DACA benefits but unable to apply during the Trump administration.

This includes 56,000 people who became eligible since the Trump administration tried to end DACA in September 2017.

Other Trump-era immigration policies, such as Migrant Protection Protocols, also referred to as ‘Remain in Mexico’, which forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as their asylum case was processed, could be reversed with a simple memo but would require significant logistical planning to deal with the nearly 70,000 people who are currently or were previously enrolled, MPI said.

But Trump administration policies that were enacted as a result of new regulation could take longer to reverse.

The Trump administration is also reported to have constructed almost 650 kilometres of a new wall on the Mexican border.

As Mr Biden vowed during the campaign to build “not another foot” of wall, Rio Grande Valley landowners from California to Texas, who has land seized by the government, launched legal action.

In February 2019, Trump issued an emergency declaration allowing him to use billions of dollars appropriated for military construction projects for border wall construction and related construction. There are currently lawsuits in court related to his use of defense funds for wall construction.

Bolter said Biden could immediately end Trump’s emergency declaration via a presidential proclamation.

The MPI briefing alludes to the question of what will be done with the funds already transferred but not yet used, saying that ending the transfer of future defence funds doesn’t necessarily mean that wall construction stops.

The MPI analysis says that although Biden will have opportunities to reverse some of Trump’s immigration policies, it will be a difficult set of goals to accomplish within 100 days, much less a four-year term due to the large amount of changes the Trump administration pushed “to nearly every corner of the US Immigration system”.

And it said that Biden’s administration may not be as focused on immigration as the Trump administration was over the past four years as it may have to immediately deal with other pressing issues, such as tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.