The immigration policy of the United States is about to take a 180 degree turn. At least that is what President-elect Joe Biden has promised that, as soon as he sets foot in the White House, he wants to leave behind the “inhuman and fear-based” programs of Donald Trump and turn the page towards “laws that reflect the values of a nation of immigrants ”, as he advanced during the campaign. His speech is the antipodean of his predecessor, who came to Washington with the promise of building a wall, raised a series of barriers to legal and illegal migration, closed the doors to refugees and asylum seekers and imposed brutal policies such as the separation of the undocumented who crossed the southern border from their children.
The plans that are known so far reveal that the new president wants to make it clear from day one that the US will once again be a host country. Through a series of executive actions and bills, Biden will try to undo the Republican’s legacy and “restore the humanity of the migration system,” as his chief of staff, Ron Klain, has advanced this weekend. In a memorandum, the official said that this Wednesday, the day of his inauguration, the president will end, by decree, with the travel veto imposed by the outgoing Administration to some Muslim countries and will start up a team that “will begin the difficult work but crucial ”to reunite the nearly 600 children who were separated at the southern border from their parents, who were deported to Central America in most cases and lost track of before returning their children.
The democrat also plans to send an immigration reform to Congress this Wednesday that would give options to regularize their situation to the 11 million undocumented who are estimated to live in the United States. The proposal contemplates a period of eight years so that a good part of these migrants can access citizenship, once it is verified that they do not have a criminal record and that they are up to date with the payment of taxes. It will also offer an express route to groups that are already protected by temporary status, such as the nearly 700,000 dreamers (dreamers), the young people who were brought to the United States without papers as children by their parents and for whom Barack Obama approved the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, or the nearly 400,000 recipients of the status temporary protection system (TPS) that protects citizens of several countries that have suffered wars or natural disasters such as Honduras, Nicaragua or El Salvador from deportation.
In both cases, they are migrants established in the country, who can legally reside and work with the permits granted to them by governments of different political symbols, but who had no way of accessing residence or citizenship. Trump tried to strip them of temporary protections, but the measures were challenged in court, which has maintained their current status during the four years of his administration.
The president-elect has also vowed to end Trump’s cruelest programs, such as the one that sends asylum seekers arriving at the southern border to dangerous cities in northern Mexico while they wait their turn for a judge to hear their cases through videoconferences, and increase the quotas of refugees that the country receives, which the Republican reduced considerably. In addition, he intends to approve a series of measures to restore the asylum and reception system that Trump dismantled in his four years of presidency and, as he promised in the campaign, plans to offer TPS to Venezuelans who have fled the Nicolás Maduro regime.
However, Biden knows that he will need time and prudence with the reception measures for new migrants to avoid creating more chaos, especially at a time when Americans are suffering a severe health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic that has left 400,000 dead. “The idea is to do it to improve the situation and not to make it worse,” Biden told reporters in December when asked how he would end the Migrant Protection Protocols, the program for which he has been sent in the last two years. to more than 70,000 asylum seekers to Mexico. “I will do what I promised, but it will not be the first day. It will probably take six months to get it up and running, ”added the democrat, who had promised to kill him on the first day of his term during the campaign.
Biden’s program has been received with enthusiasm and expectation by the organizations that during the Republican presidency have worked tirelessly both from the humanitarian trench, assisting asylum seekers sent to Mexico or trying to reunify families separated in the border, as from the legal, litigating in the courts for the new measures and rules that they considered violated the rights of migrants. “We are very hopeful, especially since we see an opportunity for the country to heal from everything that Trump has destroyed. Although there are things that are going to cost a lot to change, “says immigration attorney Jodi Goodwill from Harlingen (Texas). Three months ago, the transition team contacted her and other lawyers working on the southern border to advise them on creating a plan that would allow them to process the cases of migrants waiting on the other side of the wall. .
The president has also pledged not to build another meter of fence on the border, Trump’s star proposal. Rather, it will bet on a plan to support the Border Patrol with more technology. During the campaign, he stressed the importance of addressing the causes of migration, for which he announced an investment of 4,000 million dollars in Central America, the region that has sent the most immigrants to the United States in recent years, and greater cooperation with that region. and Mexico. According journalistic reports, the immigration reform that Biden will send to Congress this Wednesday includes actions to remedy migration from the source. That project is not expected, however, to be a priority on Capitol Hill, which in the coming weeks will debate Trump’s second impeachment trial, as well as urgent measures related to the pandemic. In addition, any immigration reform will have to deal with a sector of the Republican Party, which has half the Senate, and which has radicalized its positions on immigration with the Trump presidency.
“We are very happy about all the pronouncements that President Biden has made, but we want him to focus on things that he controls,” says Abel Nuñez, director of the Centro de Recursos Centroamericano (Carecen), a non-governmental organization based in the city. from Washington. “Something that President Trump taught us and demonstrated is that the Executive has a lot of control to change immigration policies in this country,” he adds.
The challenge for the incoming government will be to find a balance to implement a more humane system, but in which the arrival of new migrants is more controlled, something difficult at a time when Central America is experiencing a deep crisis caused by the pandemic and two powerful hurricanes. , Eta and Iota, which left tens of thousands of people without a home or means of subsistence, especially in Honduras. This weekend, one of the largest migrant caravans seen so far was formed in that country, encouraged, in part, by hopes that the Biden Administration will be more flexible with them. The incoming government, despite everything, has insisted that it is not a good time to migrate.
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