On January 20, the day of his inauguration, Biden ordered the termination of Trump’s prized US-Mexico border wall. The same day, he revoked a Trump directive that allowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to arrest undocumented people with ease. Specifically, right after assuming office, Trump lifted Obama-era priorities on who should be arrested, giving federal immigration officials a “carte blanche” that they have used for the past four years to apprehend any undocumented immigrant that they saw fit to detain.
The Biden administration has also released a set of priorities for potential legislation, including a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who lack legal status and $4bn in aid to Central American countries to take aim at “root causes”, such as poverty and crime, that force people to migrate.
A cynic may interpret such proposals as Biden “sticking it” to Trump – just doing the opposite of what the former President did with respect to the politically charged issue of immigration.
But another way to read Biden’s moves on immigration is to see them as part of a smart political strategy.
Biden’s immigration proposals – if they bear fruit – could take away a galvanising issue from Republicans, as well as help solidify within the ranks of the Democratic party a new, growing group of voters.
On the former point, under Trump, immigration was repeatedly used to mobilise support.
Immediately after arriving at the White House, besides the order that empowered ICE, Trump issued his controversial travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries. Throughout his administration, Trump routinely threatened to remove federal funding for “sanctuary cities”. In these jurisdictions, local governments had passed ordinances that kept the operations of local law enforcement separate from federal authorities, restricting the former’s ability to help immigration authorities locate and arrest migrants. Trump’s efforts to force them to lift these ordinances largely failed.
There was also the policy of “zero tolerance”, which took minors from adults as they came into the United States to request asylum. Hundreds of children remain in the United States, separated from their family members, many of whom have been deported.
Regardless of one’s political persuasion, one thing that we now know from Trump’s divisive immigration practices is that his approach failed to curtail the flow of migrants into the United States.
Look no further than the approaching caravan of migrants from Central America. Sure, Biden may appear more welcoming compared with Trump, which could factor into the calculations of those who are still travelling north. But the underlying conditions of crime and poverty that push people to leave countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras remain much the same as they were four years ago.Anthony Pahnke, "Healing a nation," The News. 2021-01-29.
Keywords: Political science , Political persuasion , Biden administration , Trump administration , Political strategy , Federal authorities , Democracy , America