On July 8, 2020, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign released a proposed policy platform that it drafted with members of Senator Bernie Sanders’ staff.[1] This proposed policy platform has been submitted to the Democratic National Committee, and presents a series of objectives and proposals addressing a broad range of fields, including immigration.[2]  This article will provide a summary of the those immigration objectives and proposals released by the Biden campaign.

Objectives

At its most basic level, the proposed policies issued by the Biden campaign reverse the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.  For example, the Biden campaign proposes to immediately rescind the Trump Administration’s immigration proclamations banning travel and immigration to the U.S., and to invite those who have been denied a visa to re-apply. The policy platform also includes provisions for reinstating and protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients.[3]  The policy platform also proposes to remove certain restrictions that currently make it difficult for foreign nationals to apply for asylum.

Provisions in the policy platform recognize that the U.S. immigration system needs fundamental reform, and that what is required is an immigration system that embraces immigrants and aligns with U.S. values of caring for those who are less fortunate.  For example, the policy platform seeks to eliminate the imposition of the three (3)-year and ten (10)-year bars currently applicable to those foreign nationals who have accumulated a certain number of days of unlawful presence in the U.S., and then depart the U.S. The policy platform also has provisions that would end workplace and community raids. “A 21st century immigration system that honors our values is an essential prerequisite not just to recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” the document states forthrightly, “but to strengthening our democracy and guaranteeing America’s long-term economic competitiveness.”

Specific Proposals

In an effort to craft an immigration policy that focuses on compassion and embracing immigrants, the Biden Campaign has proposed the following:

Rescind Current Policies and Practices

  • Reinstate DACA and expand the eligibility criteria;
  • Immediately terminate the Trump Administration’s travel and immigration bans;
  • Take urgent action to rescind executive orders issued by the Trump Administration and uphold U.S. commitment to offer refuge to asylum seekers;
  • Enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations of people in the U.S. and conduct internal study of current practices;
  • Direct Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to undertake a review of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies;
  • Direct the Office of Inspectors General (OIG) to conduct an investigation into immigration enforcement spending, detention determinations, detention conditions and practices, including whether there are policies that are discriminatory in nature;
  • Rescind the Trump Administration’s new Public Charge Rule, and work with U.S. lawmakers to ensure immigration laws are not used to discriminate against immigrants based on their wealth, race, country of origin, language abilities, sexual orientation, etc.;
  • End the Trump Administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy and prioritize the criminal prosecution of human traffickers, smugglers, and others engaged in serious crimes;
  • Re-establish prior asylum procedures at the U.S. border in order to ensure foreign nationals are given Due Process;
  • Eliminate “performance” quotas for immigration judges;
  • End the politicization of the denaturalization process by eliminating offices created by the Trump Administration to denaturalize citizens and make sure this extraordinary power is used only in the most egregious cases;
  • Ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane and unlawful treatment;

Reverse the Trump Administration's politicization of immigration courts and work toward making immigration courts more independent, and free from influence and interference.

Provide a Path to Citizenship

  • Create a path for U.S. citizenship for the nearly eleven million people who are undocumented living in the U.S., who have contributing to U.S. society;
  • Support legislation to provide legal status and fast-track access to Green Cards, with an eventual path to citizenship, to agricultural workers based on prior work history in the field of agriculture;
  • Fast-track legal status for undocumented workers who have been essential to the pandemic response and recovery efforts, including health care workers and farmworkers;
  • Reaffirm U.S. commitment to diversity by preserving preferences for diversity in the current immigration system;
  • Pursue legislative reform to provide a pathway to citizenship for TPS and Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) holders who have been in the United States for an extended period of time.

Keep Families Together

  • Reaffirm family migration as a cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy;
  • Prioritize family reunification by eliminating family-based green card backlogs and reforming the system to speed up family-based visas;
  • Ensure the equal treatment of same-sex couples and their children in the application of all federal programs, services, and benefits, including  immigration and naturalization.

Reform Immigration Agencies

  • Establish a Border Oversight Panel, as well as Border Community Liaisons in each Border Patrol Sector;
  • Ensure that the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) division within DHS has the authority to investigate issues within the agency and is able to protect people that come forward;
  • Protect immigration judges’ right to unionize by halting the Trump Administration’s efforts to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges;
  • Empower the Chief Information Officer to establish guidelines regarding the use of biometric surveillance and information sharing technologies to meet the standards of privacy specified in the Fair Information Practice Principles, including: transparency and accounting regarding the use of technologies; informing individuals of the use of technology and existence of records; individual access to records and the opportunity to correct inaccuracies; ensuring that records are accurate, relevant, timely, and complete; and that all systems are audited regularly for compliance with these standards;
  • Marshal federal resources, through the reestablishment of the Task Force for New Americans, to support community efforts to welcome immigrants;
  • Require a one-year timeline for ICE and CBP to institute best practice policies and procedures regarding the use of body cameras;
  • Ensure CBP & ICE enforcement is not used to chill First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly;
  • Provide discretionary funding for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to address backlogs, and ensure that, going forward, USCIS can adjudicate petitions and applications within six months of filing;
  • Invest in technology and infrastructure at U.S. ports of entry and change the culture to emphasize “customer service” for travelers coming into the U.S.;
  • Study best practices in immigration governance and review whether making USCIS an independent agency would enhance or undercut immigration protections or national security.

Improve Enforcement and Detention

  • Ensure access to counsel and establish federal funding to ensure that individuals in DHS custody have meaningful opportunities to secure counsel;
  • Protect sensitive locations, like places of worship, schools, health care facilities, benefit offices, and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices, and prohibit enforcement actions at courthouses that deter access to justice;
  • Reverse the historic practice of using local law enforcement to take on the role of immigration enforcement;
  • Direct the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop litigation and other inherited cases that are misaligned with an immigration system that values diversity, family relationships, and other core principles;
  • End the use of for-profit detention facilities;
  • Prioritize the use of DHS facilities, case management systems, and community-based alternatives to detention for migrants who do not present a threat to public safety;
  • Detention of children should be restricted to the shortest possible time;
  • Reintroduce discretion into the immigration system so that judges and adjudicators can weigh all facts and make just and fair decisions;
  • Expand global efforts to register and process refugees for resettlement;
  • Double the number of immigration judges, court staff, and interpreters to remove the backlog of immigration cases and support timely and fair adjudications for asylum matters and other cases;
  • Reverse policies that prevent victims of gang and domestic violence, as well as members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community, from being eligible to apply for asylum;
  • Protect and expand the existing asylum system and other humanitarian protections, including provisions in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and the Flores Settlement Agreement for arriving unaccompanied minors.

The above items are just some of the highlights of the Biden campaign’s proposed immigration policy. There may be additions and modifications to the proposed immigration policy in the future, especially once the Democratic Party’s platform is decided upon at the convention. Clearly, the immigration policy proposals issued by the Biden Campaign are in stark contrast to the immigration policies under the Trump Administration, and would be regarded favorably by many immigrants, the business community, as well as others. Immigration is likely to be a major topic of this year’s presidential election, and it is important to understand the differences between the immigration policies of the two presidential candidates, because depending on the candidate who wins the upcoming presidential election, it will have a profound impact on the future of U.S. immigration.