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20 Jan, 2021 14:39

Biden sends immigration bill to Congress, promises more visas & more diversity in reversal of Trump policies

Biden sends immigration bill to Congress, promises more visas & more diversity in reversal of Trump policies

Incoming President Joe Biden has sent a bumper immigration bill to Congress. The bill promises a total reversal of Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policies, citizenship for millions of immigrants, and a huge foreign aid package.

President-elect Joe Biden has long promised to undo President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies, and made good on that promise on Tuesday. Hours before his inauguration, Biden sent a bill to Congress that appears to fulfil many of the wishes of his liberal base.

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Reports as early as last week suggested that Biden’s bill would offer a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the US, and a press release on Tuesday from the Biden team confirmed that such a plan was in the works, although the exact number of immigrants covered was not mentioned.

In a nod to the woke brigade, the bill also changes the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in the law books, but the rest of its provisions are more than just window dressing.

The bill would end the separation of families upon detention, and allow family members of immigrants to enter the US temporarily while they wait for green cards to become available. The families of H-1B visa holders – educated workers often brought in from abroad by the tech industry – would be given work permits, while the bill would increase the number of refugee visas and boost the annual number of Diversity Visas handed out, from 55,000 to 80,000. President Trump’s controversial travel ban would be scrapped, and laws enacted to prevent a future president from implementing similar restrictions in future.

At the border, no new wall will be built, though the bill does not mention removing the 450 miles installed by Trump. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be directed to use “flexible solutions and technologies” to secure the border, the meaning of which is unclear. Customs and Border Protection agents would face new restrictions on their use of force, while a watchdog group would be empowered to probe the DHS’ waiving of environmental laws to construct barriers at the border.

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Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala would be given $4 billion in aid to “address the underlying causes of migration in the region,” on the assumption that alleviating poverty in these countries would stem the flow of migrants to the US.

As the bill makes its way to Congress, its passage is not guaranteed. The Democrats have a wide enough majority in the House of Representatives to ensure its passage there, but hold the Senate by a solitary seat, once Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote is taken into account. Republicans will oppose the bill, and moderate Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin may also put up a fight. 

Such major legislation would require 60 votes to pass, meaning Biden and his party will need to win over ten Republicans. Comments by Republican lawmakers thus far suggest he faces an uphill battle.

“There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), while Arkansas Sen; Tom Cotton blasted the bill for offering “total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement.”

Whatever fate Biden’s bill meets in Congress, the incoming president has also promised to enact his immigration agenda by executive order. Biden is expected to order all border wall construction to cease, to issue a moratorium on deportations, and to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for four years. 

President Trump attempted to terminate DACA, but his efforts were blocked in the courts.

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