Now that former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for President, it’s timely to take a closer look at the immigration platforms that voters will be choosing from when they cast their ballots for President in November. 

The visions that President Donald Trump and Joe Biden have for America over the next few years are different in a lot of ways.  But certainly, one of the biggest differences between the two is in their visions for the future of immigration in the U.S.  

We know what to expect under four more years of a Trump Administration: in the short term, the President is likely to continue to use the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic downturn as justification for long-desired restrictions on lawful immigration and a continued dismantling of the asylum system.  We will also likely see a series of rulemakings that include eliminating several programs including STEM OPT for F-1 students, H-4 work authorization for H-1B spouses, and work authorization for asylees, TPS, and refugees, as well as overhauling the H-1B program with new restrictions.  The White House’s issues page on immigration tells us to expect more of the same over the next four years, including “ending chain migration, eliminating the Visa Lottery, and moving the country to a merit-based entry system.”  

Vice President Biden’s plan looks much different.  According to his campaign website, Biden’s plans for executive action include, among other things, ending President’s Trump’s detrimental asylum policies, including the Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico” program; reversing the public charge rule; reinstating the DACA program; and addressing USCIS backlogs.

What is more interesting are Biden’s plans for legislative immigration reform.  Biden’s plan to modernize America’s immigration system includes:

  • Creating a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for years;
  • Reforming the temporary work visa system by establishing a wage-based allocation process, expanding the number of available visas, and eliminating per-country limits on employment-based visas;
  • Overhauling both employment-based and family-based immigration by allowing any approved applicant or beneficiary to immediately receive a temporary nonimmigrant visa until the permanent immigrant visa is processed, and by exempting spouses and children from green card caps;
  • Increasing the number of permanent employment-based immigrant visas, and exempting recent graduates from PhD programs in STEM fields from any visa caps; and
  • Creating a new visa category to allow counties or cities to petition for additional immigrant visas to support the region’s economic growth.

While President Trump’s commitment to protecting U.S. workers may be shared by some, especially during a period of high unemployment and economic struggles, evidence actually shows that output in the economy is higher and grows faster with more immigration.  America needs a more sensible, evidence-based approach to immigration.  Even under a Biden presidency, meaningful immigration reform would remain a near-impossibility in a divided Congress. If Democrats were to gain control of the Senate while maintaining a House majority, however, the chances of real reform could be realistic for the first time in decades.  Either way, it is clear that each candidate has a starkly different vision for immigration in America.


By Mitch Montgomery