The Biden plan for immigrants: Could this be the silver lining that many are awaiting?

November 11, 2020 12:44 PM

The repeated promise of the administration to build “The Wall” along the border with Mexico and the reversal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) demonstrates the vision towards immigration by the Trump government.

The Biden administration is also dedicated to immediately ending the separation of young ones from their parents at the border. (Photo source: Reuters)

By Nandika Handa

The pandemic and the consequent economic strife that has emanated have given wings to a fast deteriorating scenario for many as far as immigration to the U.S. is concerned. Though we have seen many changes and executive actions in the past year, the Trump government had very actively set about changing immigration policy at the outset. Immigration has been one of the cornerstones of the Trump administrations agendas since 2017.

The repeated promise of the administration to build “The Wall” along the border with Mexico and the reversal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) demonstrates the vision towards immigration by the Trump government.

Collectively, the Trump administration has undertaken over 400 executive actions on wide ranging immigration issues.

People now hope to breathe a sigh of relief with Biden’s plan towards immigration. A lot of those who voted in his favour support him in the hope that he will restore the very fibre of American society –Diversity and Inclusion.

Biden’s government has stated that they recognize the contribution and importance of immigrants in building the nation and the economy in their immigration plan. Due appreciation has been given to the facts that U.S.A is a land largely built by immigrants and most families in the U.S arrived there as “immigrants” to begin with.

They plan talks of the following goals amongst others:

• Take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values

• Modernize America’s immigration system

• Welcome immigrants into communities

• Reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees

• Tackle the root causes of irregular migration

• Implement effective border screening

Biden’s immigration plan states that action will be taken to reverse the national emergency which called for by the Trump administration where large parts of the nation’s defence budget was utilized to build “The Wall” at the border with Mexico.

The aim will be at utilizing these resources in order to build smart border enforcement efforts. A prime example of which would be improving screening infrastructure at ports of entry.

The Biden administration is also dedicated to immediately ending the separation of young ones from their parents at the border. They will work towards the prioritization of reuniting any children who are separated from their parents at the border.

They will also aim to end the laws imposed that put severe restrictions on genuine asylum seekers. As stated in the plan “Biden will end these policies, starting with Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, and 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 2012 the Obama –Biden administration instated DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to protect “Dreamers.” These are immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without legal documents. A lot of these immigrants move on to abiding by the law, staying in school or enlisting in the military. DACA provided such people who passed a background check and application process with temporary work permits and protection from deportation.

The Trump Administration made the decision to terminate DACA.

The Biden plan states “Dreamers” and their parents should have a path available to them towards citizenship and should be able to seek legal recourse, where applicable. It is expected that the DACA program will most likely be reinstated.

Under the Trump administration there were travel bans placed on travellers especially from “Muslim” nations. The Biden government recognizes this as going against American values and recognizes in the plan that these bans are “Morally Wrong”. They have stated that they will quash what is known as the “Muslim bans.”

Another goal stated in the plan is that the administration will “Restore and defend the naturalization process for green card holders.” The Biden Administration will restructure and improve the naturalization procedure to make it more accessible to qualified green cardholders.

Removing roadblocks to naturalization and ensuring applications are processed quickly, and rejecting the imposition of unreasonable fees is another goal that is stated in the plan.

The precise details and mechanisms of how this will be done are not fully known as yet.

Even though this issue is close to the heart of many families, the mechanisms around this and answers to how improvisations will be made might not come easy. This is likely to be a wait and watch the situation.

Increasing the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration is presently is limited to 140,000 each year. As president, Biden will most likely work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration. Along with this, he will also work towards promoting mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high U.S. unemployment. It is also stated that he will work towards exempting recent graduates of PhD. programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields in the US from caps.

Biden’s plan also talks about creating a new visa category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants to support their growth. The plan talks about supporting a program to allow any county or municipal executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas under specific conditions.

As a part of keeping families unified the plan states it will support family-based immigration. The present situation has caused many to be separated from their families due to the caps per country and backlogs that arise therein. In context to this it is mentioned that “As president, Biden will support family-based immigration by preserving family unification as a foundation of our immigration system; by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed, and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives that they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate.”

In the recent past a lot of people have had their hopes shattered, families decimated and working professionals have lost hope of gaining a green card. All in all, the plan definitely has a much more compassionate and humanitarian stance and talks towards definitive action to restore the balance for immigrants. There is mention of tackling problems at the roots and even working with the neighbouring countries (rather than against them) to better the situation for families. However, the big question remains how will the administration deliver the promises of lifting caps and uniting families? This will require them to undo a lot of actions that have been taken over a period of time. Their vision is promising and just, but in order to deliver it will take time and considerable mechanisms will have to be put into place.

The burning question for many across the globe remains “How long till my family and I achieve the American dream?” Unfortunately, one cannot quantify time for many people at the moment, but the element of hope and optimism is definitely there.

(The author is an independent Immigration Specialist. Views are personal).

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