By Benjamin Neufeld
Following more than two years since president Trump left office, and despite the intense anti-immigrant, “build the wall” rhetoric and messaging which he promoted faltering as a subject of public discourse, not much has changed in regard to immigration policy. Two years of Democratic control in the House, Senate, and White House, have yielded few positive results for those affected by the immigration crisis and strict Trump-era policies.
On January 5th, President Joe Biden announced an expansion of the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which allows the government to impose harsher policies around migrant entry and deportation during public health emergencies–such as the COVID-19 pandemic. According to ABC News, Title 42 is a clause from the 1944 Public Health Services Law; it has allowed the U.S. to expel over 2 million migrants.
“Those changes are very overdue. It’s been decades since we’ve reformed our system.”
Kerri Talbot, Immigration Hub
President Biden campaigned on crafting a more empathetic and reasonable immigration policy. “Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants. It’s wrong, and it stops when Joe Biden is elected president,” reads the immigration section of his campaign website. “As president, Biden will finish the work of building a fair and humane immigration system–restoring the progress Trump has cruelly undone and taking it further.”
The White House fact sheet on the Jan. 5 announcement states that courts have prevented the lifting of Title 42 “for now.” It states that the Biden-Harris Administration “is announcing new enforcement measures to increase security at the border and reduce the number of individuals crossing unlawfully between ports of entry.” It continues, “These measures will expand and expedite legal pathways for orderly migration and result in new consequences for those who fail to use those legal pathways.”
Ethnic Media Services (EMS) hosted a news briefing on the White House’s announcement on January 13. According to EMS, “The status of DREAMERs also remains tenuous.” Texas judge Andrew Hanen declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal on July 22. The DACA program was created by the Obama administration to provide stability to migrants brought to the U.S. at a young age–those who likely feel most at home and who have the majority of their support network in this country. Existing DACA recipients can apply for renewal status for now; however, no new applications have been allowed to be processed since President Trump terminated the program in September 2017.
According to Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, a Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute who spoke at the EMS briefing, the number of DACA holders has fallen from 700,000 in 2018 to 590,000 in September 2022. This change is a result of DACA holders adjusting status (often by marrying a U.S. citizen), falling out of status, leaving the country, or dying. For someone to be eligible for DACA they must have entered the country before 2012, been under the age of 16 when they entered, been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, must be enrolled in school, have their high school diploma, or have been honorably discharged from the military. They also must have no criminal charges.
Judge Hanen has been asked by the Fifth Circuit Court to evaluate the Biden administration’s new DACA guidelines issued in October. Ruiz Soto believes it’s possible, or even likely, that Hanen will rule against DACA in the next few weeks or months, causing the program to sunset over the next two years while the case goes to the supreme court. He says that Biden could continue to protect DREAMERs by changing immigration enforcement policies and decreasing DACA holders’ likely-hood of being deported.
Kerri Talbot, the Deputy Director for the Immigration Hub who also spoke at the EMS briefing, said she and other immigration advocates had been working to enact legislation that would have protected DREAMERS and reformed the immigration/asylum system. “Those changes are very overdue. It’s been decades since we’ve reformed our system,” said Talbot. “Unfortunately,” those efforts were unsuccessful.
Talbot and her allies are continuing to strategize and attempt to push forward “sensible immigration policy.” However, with Republicans in control of the House, she does not feel optimistic that any progress will be achieved before 2025 at the earliest.
Benjamin Neufeld is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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