President Trump’s agenda to limit immigration into the United States was a cornerstone of his successful 2016 presidential campaign and looks to again take center stage for the 2020 election. Former Vice President and Democratic Nominee, Joe Biden, is campaigning on the platform of removing the policies put into place during Trump’s presidency, though is crucial to understand the details of some of the most contentious immigration issues.
COVID Travel and Other Immigration Policies
Trump has abruptly truncated immigration and travel, citing national health reasons and job protection for U.S. workers to combat the dramatic increase in unemployment during the first half of 2020. However, the travel bans that initially went into effect on April 22nd can be extended until the National Emergency concerning COVID-19 has been deescalated and in theory, well after due to the economic situation. Limits are still in place for most nonimmigrant visas as well as any immigrant visas awaiting approval outside of the U.S. Individuals may apply for an exception through an arduous waiver process.
Biden has taken the opposite stance. He believes that immigration stimulates economy of the United States and declared the bans a distraction from the administration’s pandemic response. He intends to remove the harsh suspension of nearly all immigrants and nonimmigrants when the COVID-19 epidemic is at a more manageable level globally. In addition, Biden noted his support for family-based immigration and allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until their permanent visa is processed.
Biden also promises to remove Trump’s Public Charge rule, which allows immigration officials to “make an individual’s ability to receive a visa…contingent on their use of government services.” The rule adds further challenges for less affluent immigrants coming into the U.S. and provides another rationale for withholding their visa or permanent residency in the case they would need to use SNAP benefits or Medicaid. The end of the Public Charge rule would allow for those other than the wealthy to immigrate into the United States.
The Biden Administration would also restore citizenship opportunities, removing the roadblocks to naturalization and addressing the application back-log that has built up under the Trump Administration. Biden also believes in increasing the number of visas offered for permanent, employment-based immigration from the 140,000 that is currently capped at per year. An increase in visa availability could greatly decrease country-specific backlogs. On top of this, Biden intends to reform the temporary visa system for highly skilled workers.
The U.S. Southern Border Wall
One of Trump’s major campaign promise in 2016 was to build a wall on the southern border financed by the Mexican government with the purpose of curtailing the number of illegal crossings. The Mexican government has vehemently refused to fund any portion of the wall, prompting the Trump Administration to turn to the Pentagon for the billions of dollars in funding.
Trump’s border wall promise isn’t as front and center in 2020, but it is still a great differentiator between the candidates. Biden does not intend to tear down the structures that are already in place but instead is focusing on limiting Pentagon expenditure on the project. Biden’s southern border security policy hinges more on increasing the funding of U.S. border enforcement, including investments in border checkpoints and screening infrastructure.
The Bottom Line
While Biden’s immigration agenda is more progressive than Trump’s, this policies would all need congressional approval; they are therefore dependent on elections in the House and Senate.
Generally, the policies that have been put in place during the last three years of President Trump’s Administration are a good indicator of what we will see in the coming years should he be reelected. Should we see a Biden White House, a widespread reform in immigration policy is likely.