Biden’s Immigrant Advocates: Be Better Than Obama

Biden already has a long to-do list for rebuilding the U.S. immigration system. But it could be hampered by a divided congress that has never succeeded in implementing comprehensive immigration reform.

– Hell, I’m optimistic. I don’t know what the hell we would do if Trump won again, ”said Marisa Franco, executive director of Mijente, Latinx’s grassroots advocacy group. “But then my other side is, ‘I know it works. “

– Nothing will be enough for that [Biden] and this is the same issue that concerns the people of the crime and justice movement and policing [reform] van. I think it’s very possible that things get lost, and that’s our job: to make sure that’s not the case, ”Franco added.

Biden needs to move quickly to prove he learned from President Barack Obama’s immigration mistakes. Obama, despite setting up the DACA, has been dubbed the “main deporter” and is known extending the detention of immigrant families and tightening immigration legislation.

Touching Mayorkas, the former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, is a “starter,” Franco said. But he and other immigrant advocates say the staff is just one piece. They want the former vice president to apply a 100-day moratorium on deportations, revoke Trump’s more than 400 immigration enforcement orders (such as the so-called Muslim ban) and lay the groundwork for tougher goals than the road to citizenship without undocumented immigrants – every promise he made. campaign.

Alone, the Spanish Caucasian majority says many Democrats would be “seriously disappointed” if Biden did not push ahead with immigration reform. “It’s not going to go well with a lot of people,” one lawmaker in the House of Representatives said.

Biden acknowledged on Tuesday that some of the priorities for the first 100 days may be affected by “the kind of collaboration I am able or unable to achieve from the U.S. Congress.” But he vowed to take swift action against immigration.

“In the first 100 days, I’m sending an immigration bill to the U.S. Senate that has a path to citizenship for more than 11 million people undocumented in America,” Biden said in an interview with Lester Holt on NBC News.

Biden and his transitional team know that the president-elect needs to restore confidence in immigrant communities and not just repair the damage done by the Trump administration, a person close to the transition said.

Biden’s immigration promises include restoring the DACA created under Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to liquidate the DACA – but the courts have blocked it several times.

Biden also vowed to protect temporary protected status, which protects immigrants from countries hit by natural disasters or armed conflicts. In 2018, the Trump administration began phasing out its program of more than 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, Sudan, and Nepal. Biden plans to prolongs the condition to Venezuelan exiles.

The president-elect also pledged to reunite more than 500 children detained at the border with his family. And it plans to increase the annual global refugee admission ceiling from 15,000 to 125,000 in fiscal 2021, a goal that advocates say will take time but gives a positive tone.

“I definitely think he’s going to take the ball forward,” said Kerri Talbot, federal advocacy director for the Immigration Hub’s advocacy group.

Talbot predicts that immigration will remain a focus of the Biden government. For starters, you have to undo a lot of what Trump did. And the lessons of the Obama era will guide Biden to pursue “more humane and smarter priorities”.

“Court cases and lawsuits are also peaking, so immigration can’t be ignored,” Talbot said.

Talbot and other proponents argue that an immigrant-friendly policy is not just a federal immigration policy. Biden is expected to push for an epidemic relief package that specifically affects immigrant communities – similar to the Heroes Act passed by home democrats earlier this year. This bill would allow immigrant and mixed-status families to receive direct assistance and provide access to testing and treatment for Covid-19 for everyone, regardless of immigration status.

Much of Biden’s immigration schedule doesn’t happen overnight – whether he or she is a priority personally or not. The executive instructions do not override all of Trump’s actions, and the process of implementing the new regulations requires several bureaucratic hurdles.

One of the challenges will be to build a better asylum system, especially on the US-Mexico border. And it could be even more complicated if migration to the border accelerates early next year. The recent hurricanes in Central America, the economic downturn, and Trump’s departure are a particular opportunity for the surge.

“They can change policies in the long run, but it will take time.” said Andrew Selee, President of the Institute for Migration Policy. “And I don’t think there would be new tools in the toolkit on the first day to handle that.”

That means the Biden administration will be forced to keep a lot of Trump action on the border as they try to build a better system, Selee said.

Moreover, it is unlikely that comprehensive immigration reform will be highly attractive on Capitol Hill if Republicans retain their majority in the Senate. Lawyers and former DHS officials count on the Trump administration – led by Stephen Miller, chief architect of Trump’s immigration policy – narrows further immigration before Biden takes office.

Nevertheless, Democrats say they have decided to put forward a comprehensive immigration reform bill that Biden can sign. Representative Linda Sanchez (California) is drafting a bill that Democrats hope will fall to the right when Biden enters the White House.

If Democrats at least don’t cross the path to immigration reform or citizenship, Democrats will be “in a world of injuries” in the next election cycle, said Chuck Rocha, former senior adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders ’presidential campaign.

“In the next election, it hurts for us if we can’t bring something back to the community that we do for them,” Rocha said.

However, some advocates and lawmakers insist Democrats “don’t put all their eggs in one basket” and should be ready for a piecemeal approach. They will also monitor whether the Biden government follows the recommendations made this summer to unite the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party.

The recommendations made by allies of both Biden and Sanders. And they include a big win for Sanders fans: under the Immigration and Nationality Act, they change the application of section 287, which allows DHS to enter into agreements with the local police as immigration agents. They also support the closure of private prisons and the abolition of the “public burden rule” that allowed officials to refuse green cards to immigrants who used – or are likely to use – state aid.

“I pay attention to how much of the document is being tried to be swept under the rug,” said Franco, from the Mijente Latinx advocacy group, who helped draft the recommendations. “He will say a lot about where the Biden administration is planning.”

Mayorkas, if confirmed, will mean a significant change of voice and change of direction for DHS, created after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Under Biden, the agency is also expected to pay more attention to cyber security and emergency response.

Mayorkas, who worked as DHS’s deputy secretary under Jeh Johnson, would be the first immigrant and Latino would lead the class. He has been ratified by the Senate three times: as DHS Deputy Secretary, Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, and as an American attorney for the California Central District.

“In my opinion, it brings all the right qualities to the job. He understood the complexity of the immigration issue and I am sure he will achieve compassion and sensitivity in the mission, ”Johnson said.

Janet Murguia, president of UnidosUS and former advisor to President Bill Clinton, lobbied for Mayorkas. His great experience means he is ready to work on the first day, he said.

“It brings strong support not only from the immigrant community but also from the law enforcement community,” Murguia said. – He seems to be the right person at the right time.

Nevertheless, Democrats acknowledge that Mayorkas and Biden, whether they like it or not, face counterbalancing action on immigration.

“It will be tricky,” said Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, chairman of the House’s Homeland Security Subcommittee. “It’s always hard to find that balance between protecting our borders while being careful not to violate our American values.”

Laura Barrón López contributed to the report.