Biden brings sweeping reforms to US immigration policy

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Throughout his four years as president, former President Trump was very vocal about the US immigration system. His radical immigration policies, notably his proposal to build a great wall on the Mexican border, was among the many campaign promises that got him elected in 2016 and came to be the defining trait of the Trump administration. Overall, the Trump administration implemented very restrictive immigration policies aimed at protecting the jobs of American citizens by keeping illegal immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, out of the country. While such policies were endorsed by many Republicans, the building of the Mexican border wall and the Trump Administration’s separation of families on the border were condemned by many as unhumanitarian. Targeting this widespread criticism of Trump’s immigration policies, President Biden  appealed to the public by campaigning for a change to the Trump administration’s current immigration policies and emerged victorious in the 2020 presidential election. Although only a few months have passed since Biden’s administration, the Biden administration is already implementing sweeping changes to America’s immigration policies and overall loosening them to allow more immigration.

 

“The American immigration system was always a problem, not only because it was severely inefficient, but because of its many humanitarian violations such as the separation of children and their parents during the immigration process by the Trump Administration,” Eric Chang (10), politics enthusiast, said. “While I do have some qualms about such a radical change in immigration policy amidst the pandemic situation, I think Biden’s new immigration policies are certainly more humanitarian and more aligned with America’s melting pot culture compared to the Trump Administration’s extremely restrictive immigration policies.”

 

Overall, the Biden administration aims to allow more immigrants into the US, which was evident in the administration’s single largest immigration legislation: the US Citizenship Act of 2021. The US Citizenship Act of 2021 marks a significant step in reforming the US immigration system that would allow increased immigration while providing illegal immigrants an easier pathway to gaining legal status. Specifically, the policy aims to create an 8-year path for citizenship for the 10.5 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the US. In addition to providing easier pathways to legal status, a proposal by the Biden administration has further expanded the accessibility of green cards for immigrant families by increasing per-country caps (limits on number of immigrants from each country who can be accepted in the US every year). The Biden Administration is also adopting a much more lenient policy for refugees and is aiming to admit more refugees by raising the allowed number of refugee immigrants to 62,500 for 2021 and 125,000 for 2022, which are a drastic increase from the mere 12,000 immigrants that were allowed by the Trump administration.

 

“Historically, immigrants have been a crucial part of the American economy and culture as they have formed the center of industrial growth and defined the melting pot culture of America,” James Kowalski, AP US History teacher, said. “While there is the concern that increased immigration under Biden’s more lenient immigration policies may take away jobs, I am skeptical of that argument since immigrants bring much more human capital than just raw labor. For example, immigrants start new businesses at disproportionately higher numbers, are statistically less likely to be convicted of criminal behavior, and given the shrinking birthrate of the United States, help the American economy to continue growing. To be sure, there is a compelling argument that a revised immigration policy can help facilitate what many economists believe will be a robust economic recovery in the latter half of 2021.”

 

Although the Biden administration’s efforts at reforming the US immigration policy are applauded as being a humanitarian step and a boost to the American economy in the long term, many of Biden’s reforms have met backlash in the Congress. Republicans are drawing on the leniency of Biden’s immigration policies to blame the worsening Mexican immigration crisis on the border. The legalization of illegal immigrants and the potential inflow of illegal immigrants that the new immigration policies could bring have also raised many concerns. Most notably, US citizens are concerned that the legalization of the millions of illegal immigrants would create serious competition for jobs and burden the middle class and wealthy population as they would need to pay increased taxes for the social welfare of the newly legalized illegal immigrants. All in all, the Biden administration’s new immigration policies as a result of their radical nature are causing a heated debate between liberals and conservatives but are surely paving the way for significant change in the US immigration system.

 

“Biden is clearly taking revolutionary steps in changing the immigration system but as a conservative, I think Biden’s immigration policies are frankly irresponsible,” Peter Kim (10), devoted conservative, said. “Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the US is running dangerously low on resources. By allowing such a huge inflow of immigrants which would require allocating many resources for them, Biden is putting other American citizens at risk. Also, regarding Biden’s efforts to facilitate the process of obtaining legal citizenship for illegal immigrants, I think this too is a step in the wrong direction. The pathway to legal citizenship should be less lenient and allow only those immigrants who prove themselves capable of contributing to the American society to become legal citizens. Otherwise, the immigrants will only create job competition for current US citizens and a burden for US taxpayers.”