Immigration policies have been constant in the news lately. Especially with the increase in immigrants coming into the United States, there are plenty of stakes at hand. President Biden just ended detention for “most pregnant and postpartum undocumented immigrants,” which is one step in the right direction. Even still, the United States detention system has a long way to go for improvement. I have not yet seen an article comparing immigration policies on former President Trump and President Biden, so I thought it would be a good idea to analyze them. It is quite easy to become lost in a sea of information since there is so much at our fingertips.
The intent behind Trump’s wall
It is no secret that Trump wanted to keep immigrants out of the United States. In 2017, he created a bill that evaluates each individual through a points system. You would earn points based on aspects like English fluency, age, and “extraordinary achievement.” The achievements allowed are a Nobel Peace Prize or Olympic medal (yes, really). Thankfully, the Senate did not pass this bill. “Compromise” is not a word you can find in his vocabulary. In fact, Trump would not be a U.S. citizen under his own rules since his grandfather was a German immigrant. As immigrants created our nation, his ideals are contradictory to the foundations of American history.
His administration also revealed a regulation in 2019 that would eradicate the 1993 Flores settlements. The Flores settlements give a minimum time for children in detention, and “minimum standards” for the detention facilities. He also separated children from their parents long before that time. By establishing such cruel standards, he spread the message that immigrants are criminal in nature. Trump ingrained this mindset in a speech after announcing this rule:
“One of the things that will happen, when they realize the borders are closing — the wall is being built, we are building tremendous numbers of miles of wall right now in different locations — it all comes together like a beautiful puzzle.”
It was easy to become desensitized to the words that came from his mouth as president. I surely did when reading his tweets and speeches. Investigating this previous proposal snapped me back into this dismal reality.
Animalistic living conditions
The Atlantic detailed an observer’s findings at a processing center in El Paso, Texas. The person compared it to “a human dog pound.” They fit 900 migrants in a space designed for 125. They fed them “expired food” and crowded them “like human cargo.” Trump boasted plenty of deportations during that time, but the reality was more frightening. The ‘new’ living conditions under his proposed rule had no guidelines in the slightest. Most people would be disgusted if an animal lived in those facilities. Dr. Amy Cohen monitors the children’s living conditions and cases related to the Flores settlement. She described the Trump administration’s intent, stating:
“They don’t want eyeballs on the actual living conditions of these places. What they tell you is that they are protecting the privacy of these children. That makes no sense. What we need to be doing is protecting the lives of these children. And unfortunately, that does not seem to be a priority of the government.”
Food and shelter are clearly not a concern for the former president. President Biden had quite a lot of reversal to deal with, especially with immigration policies. The right-wing backlash from his decisions is even more aggravating.
President Biden’s agenda
President Biden began advocating for a more inclusive nation early into his campaign. The New York Times obtained a blueprint his administration created called the “D.H.S. Plan to Restore Trust in Our Legal Immigration System,” which details plans with much fewer “hoops” to jump through for immigrants. This can include decreasing the time receive a green card and application fees. He is currently debating whether to take away Title 42, an act Trump created that prohibits most migrants from entering the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, there is not a ton of information since President Biden just reached six months in office. However, he is dealing with an aspect that Trump did not have: a severe migration surge.
Just last March, more than 19,000 children appeared at the U.S. border when fleeing from “poverty and violence.” It is unexpected and hard to deal with as a nation. The 2021 financial year immigrant population already surpassed the 2019-2020 total, with space already extremely limited. Unsurprisingly, Republican representatives are not viewing this as an unrelated statistic. They see this as a presidential failing in the Biden agenda. In addition, the changes President Biden is implementing – like the ending of pregnant and postpartum detention – are not “codified by law.” This means that the fates of immigrants could change every presidential term.
A partisan fate
President Biden most likely used executive orders because he understands the volatility of the legislative branch. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate changes its partisan majority every single year. And due to extremely polarized representatives in both, his orders would not be passed as bills. This is something that cannot be helped; it is in the nature of our governmental system. However, it puts the fate of millions in an ever-changing political world. When considering this system, I think to myself: why do these individuals have to face constant uncertainty? Although the orders President Biden created are on a path to acceptance, they can all be swept away in just one election. There has to be a better way to solve this problem. Too many livelihoods are at stake for partisan debate.