President-elect Joe Biden wants to get started right away by reversing President Donald Trump’s stubborn first-day immigration ordinances and drafting a “comprehensive immigration reform” bill that Congress is expected to work on in its first 100 days.
But while the tired and suspicious immigration activists are counting down the days until Biden Trumps can repeal administrative orders, they no longer view a large-scale legislative overhaul contained in a single bill as a viable strategy.
Previously, the gold standard, a bipartisan, comprehensive approach to reforming the nation’s immigration laws-essentially a bill to regulate them all-has been the Democratic strategy for most of the past two decades.
But when Biden again attempted to negotiate with the Republicans, veterans of previous immigration battles in the world of advocacy said it was time to move away from a “failed” strategy, they said on Newsday in Washington.
“Comprehensive immigration reform is an idea whose time has come and gone,” said Frank Sharry, who worked on the strategy when George W. Bush was engaged and promoted it as president in 2004, along with former Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain, who introduced the 2005 bill.
Activists stressed that they would be foolish to rule anything out more than two months before Biden’s inauguration, but cited the number of Republican senators they would need to negotiate in good faith in the post-Trump era as one factor in why they believe the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) have dimmed.
Their main problem with the CIR, they said, is that Republicans are increasingly calling for greater militarization of borders and more enforcement inland against immigrants, and that ultimately the negotiations will no longer benefit activists and the community.
“When activists hear about comprehensive immigration reform, it’s like PTSD,” said Cristina Jimenez, an immigrant leader and co-founder of United We Dream, who informally advised the Biden campaign on immigration issues.
President Biden must be just as courageous and aggressive when it comes to reversing all the damage that the community has suffered through executive orders.
Cristina Jimenez, immigrant leader and co-founder of United We Dream
“It is a package of harmful regulations for our community in exchange for a path to citizenship. That doesn’t work for us, and we have to break away from the old framework.
Beyond the CIR, there are many overlaps between what the new Biden government wants to achieve in the area of immigration and what activists are looking for.
Biden wants to make the DACA program that Trump attacked permanent, end the separation of families and create a task force to reunite children with their parents. The Biden campaign told Washington Newsday that the issue would be marked by the return of “due process” in dealing with these families.
The President-elect also wants to immediately lift the Muslim ban, start reforming the asylum system and stop the construction of the border wall, which would not involve demolishing parts of the border wall, but would stop further construction or renovation.
In her talks with the Biden campaign, Jimenez stressed that the Trump administration “did not wait long to make it clear that on its first day, it came up with an agenda of white nationalists” by deporting all undocumented immigrants in a departure from the priorities of the Obama era and by imposing the Muslim ban.
“President Biden must be just as bold and aggressive in using an executive order to undo all the damage the community has suffered,” she said.
One area that some activists will be bold enough to focus on is the COVID compensation packages that are expected at the start of Biden’s presidency, which should include legalization efforts for key workers, in addition to addressing health and financial issues, according to supporters.
“We cannot at the same time continue to applaud and not legally recognize all of these important workers we rely on,” Marielena Hincapié, managing director of the National Immigration Law Center and a member of the Biden-Bernie Sanders Task Force, told CBS News.
“To give them some kind of protection and work permit so that they can do the work without fear of detention or deportation and actually work within the law.