With the November Presidential Elections getting closer and closer, people are starting to make their final decisions on who to support in the race.
Arguably, one of the most debated topics during the last four years has been immigration. On one side, President Donald Trump has made immensely clear that he is very restrictive when it comes to immigration. His promises have been made mostly towards the people that would like to limit immigration and has been good about keeping those promises by cutting down immigration significantly.
On the other hand, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has been vocal about his support for immigrants and his plans to expand immigration. However, some fear that his track-record might be working against him. Here are the candidates stance when it comes to immigration:
Family Separations, the wall and border crossing
The infamous wall has been a big part of Donald Trump’s campaign. As of right now, 235 miles of that wall dividing Mexico and the U.S. has been built, and according to his website, he has 61% of the funding secured for the whole project.
Trump launched his “zero tolerance” campaign at the beginning of 2018 in which he promised to legally prosecute anybody that illegally crosses the border to the United States.
As a direct result of this policy, thousands of children have been separated from their family at the border. The separations have resulted in severe mental health damage to immigrant children and has even resulted in the sexual and physical abuse of minors in the hands of the U.S. Immigration officials.
“When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away,” Trump said.
However, Trump’s deportations within the country have remained lower than those during the Obama presidency, even after threatening to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records within the U.S.
Track record: So far, he has kept all of his promises on restricting immigration. According to the Pew Research Center, U.S.-Mexico border detentions rose in fiscal 2019 to its highest annual level in 12 years.
Under Trump, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Center (USCIS), has suffered too. The agency, which functions through the fees and payments of applicants, has had a severe budget crisis because of the changes to immigration policies during the pandemic. The agency, who was already losing millions of dollars a year under the Trump administration before the pandemic, will be furloughing close to 70% of its employees. This resulted in a massive delay in immigration application.
Even though Biden has criticized Donald Trump for his border policies, he is still relatively conservative about border security. Instead of a wall, the former vice president wants to “invest in better technology”, like movement cameras and such, to help protect the border. Additionally, he has reiterated that he would not decriminalize border crossings, which means that those that cross the border illegally could face deportation and legal consequences for doing so.
As for Family Separations, the Democratic candidate said he is committed to “ending the prosecution of parents for minor immigration violations as an intimidation tactic, and prioritize the reunification of any children still separated from their families.”
The Obama administration has an extensive record when it comes to deportations, having deported 3 million immigrants, including an estimated 1.7 million people who had no criminal record. Biden has since come forward to say that the measures were too much during an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos.
“We took far too long to get it right,” Biden said. “I think it was a big mistake. Took too long to get it right.”
On the other hand, Family separations rarely occurred during the Obama administration, but that was only because the whole family would be detained together.
On paths to citizenship and protected statuses
Trump has made the path to citizenship increasingly complicated for immigrants. In 2019, he introduced the Public Charge rule, which allows the federal government to decide who can become a U.S. citizen based on what public benefits immigrants have used, along with other factors, like health, family size, education, and English proficiency.
His program “Remain in Mexico”, which requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their day in U.S. immigration court, has sent roughly 66,000 immigrants to Mexico since its implementation. Often, they become victims of violence and human trafficking.
Additionally, he slashed the country’s annual refugee cap to 18,000 from his prior reduced limit of 30,000.
In his website, Biden promises to “restore our asylum laws so that they do what they should be designed to do–protect people fleeing persecution and who cannot return home safely.” In addition, he will “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time.”
Regarding undocumented immigrants, Biden said that he will work with Congress to create a path for citizenship for undcumented immigrants who have a clean record and prove themselves to be responsible citizens. He also said he plans to allow cities and counties to petition for additional visas.
Biden adds that he would like to review Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, saying that he supports extending these benefits to Venezuelans, aside from protecting the existing TPS holders.
Donald Trump has had a contentious relationship with the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Ever since his campaign started in 2016, he has promised his supporters that he would end the Obama-era program as soon as he was in office.
Even though he has failed to officially do so after multiple attempts, he remains firm on his desire to cancel the program.
“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” Trump said back in 2019.
Track Record: Trump’s attempts to end the program has been so insistent that the case ended up in The Supreme Court. The Court ended up siding with DREAMers, saying that the Trump administration had not provided motive enough to end the program. However, it did leave open the possibility of cancelling the program if the administration were to give a better reasoning behind their actions.
After the court’s ruling, Trump put out a memorandum blocking new DACA applications and reducing the duration of the legal status of the individual to one year increments. He also raised the application fees earlier this year.
The DACA program is close to home for Biden, who was the vice president when Barack Obama introduced the program back in 2012. After the Supreme Court decided against cancelling the program Biden said that if he became president he would “work to make it permanent” on “day one.”
“For over eight years, DACA has given hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to this country as children the chance to contribute to the country they know as home. And with that opportunity, they have shown the incredible capacity of the immigrant spirit,” said Biden. “[I] will continue to stand with DACA recipients, their parents, and their families at every step, and in November, joined by millions across this country, we will reject the President who tried to rip so many of our family members, friends, and coworkers out of our lives.”
Track Record: Biden has always been supportive of the DACA program. However, he and Obama were also criticized at the time because of the restrictive nature of the DACA program.
DREAMers, who have to maintain a spotless record to be allowed to remain in the program have complained about the lack of a clear citizenship path within the program and the difficulty of living their lives on “increments of two years.”
The program was also called out for not including many young people who met certain criteria but still didn’t qualify for the benefits. A good example is the people who were over 30 at the time of the announcement and therefore didn’t qualify or those who were 17 or older when they initially arrived. Additionally, other members of the family, like the parents of the DREAMers, didn’t receive any migratory status.
Coronavirus Immigration Restrictions
Trump has been extremely strict with his measures regarding immigration during the coronavirus. In the last couple of months, he has implemented new measures that restrict various visa-holders to stay and enter the country and has reinforced security on the border. He stated that Visa programs that authorize immigrants to legally work in the United States are a “threat to American workers” and put up restrictions for the next 6 months.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that around 167,000 temporary workers will be affected by the new rules.
Biden, on the other hand, has criticized Trump for his harsh measures, saying that the President “doesn’t get” that immigrants “make America who we are.”
Additionally, the ex-vice president said that he will pause deportations for 100 days after taking office. However, Reuters said that his campaign did not immediately comment on the coronavirus-related border rules.