Future of US Immigration Policy under a Biden Presidency
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(01 November 2020) — There has been a great deal of anxiety within the immigrant community during the near four years of the Trump administration. Given the rabid anti-immigrant policies, especially anti-immigration policies targeting immigrants from non-European countries, from the onset of the Trump presidency, there are very good reasons for this high level of anxiety and hopeful anticipation for change. Indeed, the immigrant community, authorized and unauthorized, has a big stake in future US immigration policy, but so do Caribbean countries which benefit significantly from the outward migration of Caribbean nationals to the United States and the inward flows of remittances from the Caribbean diaspora communities globally. There is much at stake in the outcome of the November 3rd presidential elections.
Immigration correlation to remittances
On the issue of future immigration and its impact on remittances to Caribbean countries, it should be noted that, while all Caribbean countries benefit from remittance flows, Haiti and Jamaica are the two Caribbean countries which benefit the most from their diaspora communities. In 2019, Haitians remitted some US $3.27 billion which represented a whopping 37.1% of Haiti’s GDP. The overall economic impact on Haiti’s GPD would actually be at least twice that amount.
Jamaica, the second largest recipient of remittances in 2019, received $2.574 billion, contributing 16.4% to Jamaica’s GDP. As in Haiti’s case, remittances overall economic impact on Jamaica’s GDP would have been approximately twice as much. Notably, despite a small decline in remittance flows to Jamaica during March and April 2020 – the COVID-19 impact – remittance flows to Jamaica have recovered, and by October 2020 accounted for approximately 18.3% of Jamaica’s GDP.
Continuity of remittance flows to the Caribbean is directly related to the number of emigrants from the region, in particular to the United States. It is in this context the future of US immigration policy should be given high consideration in future development planning in Caribbean countries, and when any US administration’s immigration policy negatively impacts Caribbean diaspora communities by stemming immigration flow, governments of the region should take heed and must make their voices heard in Washington.
Biden’s proposed immigration policies
Citing a number of the draconian and inhumane anti-immigration policies and actions of the Trump administration, candidate Biden pledged to stop Trump’s “unrelenting assault” on American values and history as a nation of immigrants. It is befuddling and difficult to rationalize Trump’s anti-immigration policies when one considers the economic impact of immigrants on the US economy. According to the Congressional Budget office, immigration raises total US economic output. The Hamilton Project (Brookings Institution) cited one estimate which puts the annual total contribution of foreign born immigrants at approximately US $2 trillion, or about 10% of US GDP. One can only conclude that Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are an extension of the US president’s, and his anti-immigration advisers’ xenophobia against non-white immigrants. Racism is also a major factor.
Biden is expected to get off to a quick start upon taking office to reverse the egregious anti-immigrant actions of the Trump administration. Biden’s immigration policy will be a welcome respite from the assault of the Trump administration against immigrants already in the US and against potential immigrants from non-white countries often demeaned in statements by the US president. Based on Biden’s past history, there is every reason to have confidence that as president he will carry out necessary immigration reforms. Biden will use Executive Orders and legislative action to achieve his stated objectives. A Democratic Congress (House and Senate) will make it a lot easier for Biden to make America a far more welcoming environment for immigrants.
According to candidate Biden, upon becoming president, he would establish, immediately, a task force to reunite separated immigrant children from their parents. This first step is seen as a priority to try and reverse the grossly inhumane actions of the Trump administration’s parent-child separation policy. Biden is also committed to returning international refuge standards to US immigration policy. He also pledged to send a comprehensive immigration reform package to the US Congress in the first 100 days of his presidency.
Immigration reform is of great interest to the immigrant community, including Caribbean immigrants. The elements of Biden’s immigration reform will include a path to citizenship for the approximately 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. These include the 351,000, or 3% of the total number of unauthorized immigrants, who are from the Caribbean.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the other important measures to be taken on immigration by a president Biden.
- DACA – Biden will take immediate executive action to reinstate the DACA program and protect Dreamers and their families. He will also introduce legislation to provide Dreamers and their families with a path to US citizenship. There are an estimated 35,000 individuals and their families from the Caribbean that will benefit from protection of the DACA program.
- TPS program – Biden will order an overview of Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs which will keep some 65,000 Haitians from being sent back to Haiti.
- Asylum program – Under a President Biden Administration, there will be sufficient resources to return international humanitarian standards to the asylum application process.
- Rescind the “un-American” ban (Muslim ban) which, as Biden puts it, “the trump Administration’s anti-Muslim bias hurts” the US economy, betrays American values, “and can serve as a powerful terrorist recruiting tool.”
- Enforcement priorities – Biden has said he will end the targeting of immigrants not convicted of a serious criminal offense and who have “lived, worked, and contributed to [the US] economy.” This could mean a return to pre-1996 deportation policy. Biden will also end ICE workplace raids which have created an uncertain workplace environment for unauthorized as well as authorized immigrants.
Among other reforms on Biden’s agenda are: restoring the pre-Trump naturalization process for green card holders, including by reversing Trump’s ‘public charge’ rule; promoting immigrant entrepreneurship; reigning in and holding accountable ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBD (Customs and Border Protection) personnel which have often been accused of unprofessional standards in dealing with immigrants; and ending prolonged detention in border control proceedings.
The choice for immigrants, and for those who favor a humane immigration policy which treats immigrants fairly, a policy which promotes family unity and reunification, and a policy which is consistent with America’s historical values and role as a nation of immigrants, will find Biden’s stated immigration policy far more immigrant friendly and of infinite benefit to the future of America. The Caribbean region, and Caribbean immigrants will be beneficiaries of Biden’s immigration policy.
© 2020 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post
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