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Statutes of Liberty: Election 2020 — Former Vice President Biden’s Immigration Proposals

This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

Immigration law and policy depend heavily on who occupies the White House.

With that in mind, we think it’s important for our fellow citizens to know what the major candidates propose to do about an important issue. In this column, we’ll discuss former Vice President Joe Biden’s platform. In our next column, we’ll discuss President Trump’s platform.

Biden’s proposals can be divided into two main categories: rollback and reform. The rollback policies simply reverse moves by the Trump Administration, and the reform policies move American immigration policy beyond the status quo ante.

Here are the rollback provisions, which provide a useful precis of how remarkably vigorous and variegated the Trump Administration’s immigration policies have been:

  1. End the Family Separation policy at the U.S. border for migrants seeking asylum.
  2. Reverse Attorney General rulings which impose additional evidentiary burdens on victims of gang violence and domestic violence seeking asylum.
  3. End the Migrant Protection Protocols — the “Remain in Mexico” policy for Central American asylum seekers.
  4. Abolish the new Public Charge Rule, which prevents potential green card holders from immigrating to the United States unless they can provide a great deal of evidence of future financial self-sufficiency.
  5. End the Travel Bans, which prevent all travel to the United States from certain countries which the Trump administration regards as a security threat to the United States.
  6. End the “National Emergency” which permits the Administration to transfer funds initially allocated to the Department of Defense for construction of a border wall.

These proposals are unsurprising. The rest of Biden’s platform is more interesting:

  1. Reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ensure that DACA recipients are eligible for federal student loan assistance.
  2. Offer a path to citizenship for TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients.
  3. “Aggressively advocate for legislation” to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
  4. Decouple temporary workers (e.g., H-1B employees) from employers. This would have the salutary effect of decreasing employer power over temporary immigrant workers.
  5. Prioritize high-wage temporary workers over low-wage temporary workers. Here, I think it’s worth quoting the platform in full, because the proposal isn’t quite clear. “Biden will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labor market and not used to undermine wages.”
  6. Add a location-based system for encouraging immigration to economically depressed parts of the United States, by allowing cities and counties to act as petitioners. Immigrants would be bound to work and reside in the city or county that petitioned for them, which would create interesting issues both for municipalities and immigrants themselves. This proposal is in tension with the ‘decoupling’ proposal for private employers detailed above.
  7. Double the number of Immigration Judges, court staff and interpreters. On that point, at least, Biden and Trump are completely in agreement. With a backlog of over one million cases, the Immigration Courts desperately need the help.

Biden’s platform is long and ambitious, and we were only able to hit the highlights in this space. We’re glad to answer any questions that you have about these proposals. As always, we welcome any comments and will do our best to respond.

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