Immigrant Livelihoods: Shifting Presidency, Shifting Tides

Camille Alexandra Polk | December 2020

During the four years of the Trump administration, immigration law enforcement cracked down on all undocumented immigrants regardless of criminal status. But what can we expect for the next four years under a Biden presidency?

Trump vocalizes his opinions, but Biden doesn’t shy away from expressing his views on immigration either. In his second presidential debate with President Trump, Biden condemned Trump’s removal of the catch and release program and his policies leading to the separation of children from their families. While Trump frequently uses dehumanizing language to describe immigrants from Latin America, Biden employs a far less criminal tone and makes it a point to disapprove of Trump’s rhetoric. Unlike Trump’s references to Latin Americans as gang members or rapists or murderers, Biden does not leverage politics of fear and conversely recognizes immigrants’ contributions to American society. So, the rhetoric describing immigrants can be expected to change for the better. In fact, Biden’s team has crafted a plan for rebuilding relationships in Central America.

Aside from a clear shift in rhetorical strategies, Biden promises to initiate and reinstate many concrete changes for immigrants. His aspirations support DACA and DAPA candidates. Biden also promised to end the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. His plan for immigration reform also promises to reopen pathways to citizenship for those with those green card visas. The Biden Plan for Securing our Values as a Nation of Immigrants includes various changes that may ease the day-to-day struggle of undocumented people living in the U.S.

Biden intends to restore social services to undocumented immigrants, secure food stamps, and review Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

These proposals are all good promises from Biden, but there is nothing guaranteed in American politics. Courts and Congress potentially could block Biden’s plans for his first hundred days in office. And, even if Biden is able to enact his plans through executive orders, the snail speed of democracy certainly will delay any relief to undocumented immigrants. The pace of democracy will not make faith-based assistance to immigrants obsolete. On the contrary, during the transition from presidential administrations, from right to left, undocumented immigrants might rely even more heavily on non-profits or sanctuary organizations for information and support during this era of misinformation.

Ultimately what we can expect from Joe Biden is a revival of policies from the Obama era. This Biden presidency may simply be a reparation of Trump’s many misdeeds against immigrants. Biden’s goals for immigration will provide comprehensive immigration reform as we’ve seen it before. The innovations in his proposal are not drastic, so if you were hoping for radical changes to the system of immigration services in America, don’t expect to see them happen in the next four years. So, if as an undocumented immigrant, you felt safe under the tenuous reforms of Obama’s presidency, then you can likely anticipate feeling similarly come 2021.