Immigration: Biden administration leads to more of the same Trump policies

The administration’s best-case scenario is a “totally mixed bag,” said Jorge Loweree, director of policy at the American Immigration Council. “And the worst-case scenario is an effective continuation of what Trump wanted. “

Immigration has been a politically perilous issue for Biden, whose approval rates have declined. During an influx of unaccompanied migrant minors in the spring, Biden called on Vice President Kamala Harris to tackle the root causes of migration – an intractable problem that has haunted previous administrations. While Harris announced private sector investment in Central America, she largely kept the situation on the US-Mexico border at bay.

Republicans have continued to seize the record number of border arrests and have taken legal action to challenge the policy changes, hampering the administration in its attempt to fulfill some of its commitments.

Most notably, a Texas federal judge blocked the end of a Trump-era border policy forcing non-Mexican migrants to stay in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court date and called on the administration to bring back the controversial agenda it opposes and still seeks to end.

Another Trump-era border policy that immigrant advocates and the United Nations have urged the Biden administration to abandon also remains in effect. A public health authority, invoked at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, allows authorities to turn back migrants encountered at the southern border of the United States, effectively preventing them from seeking asylum.

When asked about the authority, known as Title 42, the Biden administration referred to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, which a White House spokesperson said deems it necessary given the Delta variants and Omicron.

There was also internal frustration with immigration policy. “There has been a disillusionment with the immigration policy and a lack of follow-up to the principles adopted in the decrees taken earlier in the year,” said an administration official.

Immigrant advocates – who expected significant changes after four years of reduced immigration under then-President Donald Trump – hailed the outcome of some Trump-era policies, but also voiced more in addition to their concern and disappointment to those responsible for the actions of the administration in many discussions.

“The Biden campaign promised to welcome people with dignity, and instead we went back to Trump’s policies,” Karen Tumlin, lawyer, founder and director of the Justice Action Center, said during a call. with journalists. “This is not the change millions of people asked for when Biden was elected.”

The White House has championed the administration’s actions and the overthrow of Trump-era immigration policies.

“The President has made it clear that restoring order, fairness and humanity in our immigration system are priorities for this administration. Our immigration system is outdated and in dire need of repair. reformed, immigrant relief and bring our immigration system into the 21st century, ”a White House spokesperson said in a statement.

Treatment of migrants

Tumlin, among others, is suing the administration for the treatment of Haitian migrants who gathered at the US-Mexico border this fall.
In a December letter to Biden and Harris, dozens of immigrant advocacy groups urged the administration to abandon Trump-era border policies, calling them “harmful” and “illegal.”

“Nearly eleven months since taking office, this administration continues to violate US asylum law and evade US treaty obligations by blocking and returning asylum seekers to places where their lives and security are in danger, ”the letter said.

Exclusive: Unaccompanied children are detained by border patrol for an average of 77 hours, according to internal documents
The UN refugee agency has also intervened on several occasions, criticizing the use of the public health order.

The continued use of public health order is an example of the unique position in which the Biden administration finds itself: to fight a pandemic and struggle with a growing number of migrants on the southern border of the United States, many of them are fleeing conditions at home that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

At the start of Biden’s presidency, authorities grappled with record numbers of unaccompanied minors arriving at the US-Mexico border, straining resources and overwhelming border facilities. While slightly fewer migrant children have arrived in recent months, other flows, such as those from South America, have presented new challenges.

“The volume and the urgency put us in a defensive posture rather than reforms and a proactive agenda,” an administration official told CNN.

Reuniting children separated during the Trump years

Despite various setbacks, the Biden administration has made some headway in its immigration program, including amending the enforcement guidelines to prioritize certain undocumented immigrants for arrest and deportation, ending the ‘mass enforcement on construction sites, stopping the construction of border walls and no longer enforcing controversial rules, like Trump – at the time public office regulations that made it harder to gain legal status for immigrants if they used certain public benefits.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a bilateral meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei at the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura in Guatemala City on June 7, 2021.
Biden also created a task force to reunite families who had been separated on the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration. Last week, the task force – led by the Department of Homeland Security – reunited the 100th family separated under the Trump-era “zero tolerance” policy.
Even so, for parents who saw their children taken from them – with no indication of where they were going – it was difficult to trust the federal government, regardless of the president. And the recent fallout from the settlement talks has strained this already fragile relationship.

The lawsuits stem from the zero tolerance policy and the separation of families. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit in 2019 seeking damages for the toll the separations have taken on families, and lawyers for the families have filed separate claims.

After a constant flurry of criticism from Republicans over the ongoing settlement negotiations, the Justice Department this month broke off talks with lawyers for the separated families.

Next year is expected to bring more court hearings, including in the class action lawsuit seeking damages, and further changes to immigration policy, such as building asylum capacity.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have pledged to continue fighting for immigration reviews – an effort that has stuck with Congress for decades. The Senate parliamentarian has this year rejected several attempts to include immigration provisions in the massive spending bill, a setback to push through changes without the support of Republicans.

These efforts are expected to continue to face the same difficult battles over the coming year.

“They have to win because they are in such a bad position with advocates and immigration in general,” a source close to the White House told CNN, referring to the restructuring of immigration. “Not answering this question will be terrible for them politically.”

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