Joe Biden has predictably jettisoned Donald Trump’s immigration agenda. Thursday’s immigration overhaul envisages a dramatic expansion of worker visas, chiefly to modernise the system of immigration and facilitate citizenship for millions of what are called “undocumented Americans”. Indeed, the proposal unveiled by Democrats on Capitol Hill offers an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, eliminates restrictions on family-based immigration, and expands worker visas. A refreshing change from the previous paradigm, one that was quirky as well as direly restrictive.
It would be useful to recall that Trump had started his tenure by barring citizens of six Islamic countries from setting foot in the United States. For all that, Saudi Arabia was excluded from the “out of bounds” list despite evidence that citizens of the desert kingdom had masterminded 9/11. The wall skirting Mexico remains a non-starter. “Today, we have an administration and a President who understands that the success of our country is interwoven and linked to the success of our immigrant communities, and it is time that we finally put in place an immigration system that’s based on that reality. Immigrants are good for our communities, for our economy and for our country.
The legislation brings to life President Biden’s plan to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system,” was the resonant chant of the Democrats, more than a month after the outrage in the Capitol. It is the way history often works. Mr Biden will now be riveted to an emotive and thorny political issue that he is hoping to address despite the political challenges associated with moving legislation on immigration in Congress.
Mr Biden’s immigration agenda comes at a time when the President and Democratic lawmakers are already in the midst of another major legislative undertaking ~ the passage of the coronavirus relief package.
While the immigration overhaul is on the anvil, Mr Biden will have to countenance several daunting issues unrelated to the pandemic. Unlike previous efforts to overhaul immigration, this legislation does not propose heightened border enforcement.
Instead, the bill adds resources to process migrants legally at ports of entry and invests $4 billion over four years in distressed economies in the hope of preventing people from fleeing to the United States because of security and economic crises.
Immigration has been referred to as the “cornerstone of Trump’s hateful horror show”. Much as Joe Biden has succeeded to a depleted inheritance, he has signalled an earnest effort to set things right.