Over the past four years, Trump has enacted hundreds of policies aimed at preventing migrants from entering the United States, and punishing non-citizens already present. His administration has used fear-mongering over “caravans” of asylum seekers, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, to effectively halt US refugee and asylum systems, while also stranding tens of thousands of migrants in dangerous situations in Mexican border cities. In the meantime, it has sought to make securing legal status as difficult as possible for many other groups of would-be immigrants.
Finally, Trump has encouraged a culture of impunity and bigotry within federal law enforcement agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol, who increasingly view their mission as waging war against all undocumented immigrants.
The incoming Biden Administration has promised to roll back Trump’s immigration actions, restore Obama-era programs such as DACA, and impose a temporary moratorium on deportations. Biden’s announcements are a welcome signal that he understands the mandate he has been given on the immigration issue by a public that largely supports more liberal policies.
However, the Biden Administration cannot settle for a superficial return to the status quo ante of pre-Trump immigration policy, nor can it hide behind the banner of “bipartisanship” as an excuse for inaction. The incoming president will have substantial powers at his disposal to end the humanitarian crisis at the border, abolish the current carceral model, and bring US policy in line with the demands of global justice.
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