Andrea Flores from America’s Voice gives her insight into how a Biden-Harris administration will approach immigration policy, and what that might mean for the rest of the world.
These past four years have filled immigrants and advocates with anxiety as Donald Trump has stopped at nothing to dehumanise and attack immigrants. The fate and irony of Trump’s defeat rested in the hands of Black voters and voters of colour, and now more than ever, there is momentum and an expectation that a President and Vice President will fight for justice. All eyes are on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to reverse Trump’s harmful immigration policies starting on day one in office through executive orders and the introduction of major legislation.
Here is what we are looking forward to with a Biden-Harris administration:
Biden has promised to rescind Trump’s travel bans, and can do so through executive order. On the first day of Trump’s administration, he instituted a travel ban banning Muslim-majority nations such as Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen as a ‘national security measure’ to protect the United States from Islamic extremist. The notorious Muslim ban went through different versions in order to pass muster with the conservative majority on the Supreme Court so that Trump could legally ban individuals from entering based on their faith.
2. Path to citizenship bill
During the campaign, Joe Biden made a big promise: on day one of his presidency he will introduce legislation that would establish a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who work and live in America – many for decades. This might be difficult if not impossible to enact with a Republican majority Senate. This is why the two special election senate races in Georgia are so critical; if both Democrats win, Democrats will enjoy a majority in the Senate by virtue of the Vice-President’s tie-breaking vote. But what is clear is that a strong majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Trump attacked Biden for supporting this policy and it fell flat because of public support.
3. DACA and Dreamers
Biden can provide a sense of security through executive orders for individuals with DACA. DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that was implemented under the Obama Administration in 2012, and individuals with DACA are also known as Dreamers. The Trump administration moved to end DACA in 2017, a decision that was challenged by immigrant advocates up to the Supreme Court. Surprisingly, the conservative Supreme Court ruled in favour of DACA in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration is defying federal court orders that they reopen the program to new DACA applicants. Biden has promised to fully restore the DACA program, a move that will protect over 700,000 young immigrants in year one. Biden will also protect some 300,000 immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, reversing some of the cruelest expressions of Trump’s radical nativism.
4. Family separation
Biden will prioritise the reunification of children that have been taken from their families in a horrifying strategy to punish parents and deter immigration. At least 666 kids, some under the age of five, remain separated from their parents, who have been impossible for advocates to locate.
5. Fix and protect asylum policies
Biden will work to end Migrant Protection Protocols, a program commonly referred to as ‘Remain in Mexico.’ This is another unlawful and awful initiative in which non-Mexican immigrants are forced to remain in Mexico as they await US immigration court dates. While in northern Mexico, the asylum seekers are subjected to crime, including rape, kidnapping and assault. Protocols related to Covid, the deployment of asylum adjudicators, the restarting of successful case management programs, and the initiation of a regional protection and resettlement program are expected to accompany resolution of the Remain in Mexico travesty.
With a Biden and Harris administration, we have hope. If they follow through and build a new approach to immigration it will send a message that immigrants are once again welcome here. People everywhere will always seek a better life, no matter the obstacle. As a nation with resources, it is our moral obligation to help make that process fair, safe and humane for all.
European countries and their leaders should look at this election as evidence that the public will reject oppressive policies. Our brothers and sisters fighting for justice globally must not lose hope in whatever stands in their way of freedom and equality. The United States has gone through a social transformation these past four years, and this election which denied the continuation of fascism was merely the culmination of grassroots organising, protests, litigation, and overall unrest. Any leader modelling similar behaviour to that of Trump should expect the same fate if they refuse to listen to public needs.
The United States must reckon with its own history. It’s time to tell an accurate story that captures the fact that we are rooted in the murder of Indigenous people and enslavement of Black people. We must be willing to confront this history with institutional changes to ensure the protection and liberty of all people. The world must not confuse the defeat of Trump with the fall of racism and xenophobia. There have always been institutions set in place to allow for such harmful policies to be implemented, and the world can and should look forward to the American public rectifying the horrors of Trump’s gangster regime and holding our leaders accountable for promising to put our ideals into practice. Ultimately, we can accept nothing less.
Andrea Flores is a Communication and Outreach Coordinator at America’s Voice where she was working on southern swing states in the 2020 election. She hopes to continue being a better advocate for the Latinx community broadly. Andrea is from Waukegan, Illinois, and a graduate from Stanford University where she received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.