How will the incoming Biden Administration approach immigration policies? Here’s what experts say
Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF
- The Biden campaign promised to end for-profit detention centers, saying businesses shouldn’t profit from refugees or asylum seekers, but a Heritage Foundation expert says these facilities provide the highest levels of federally mandated detention standards.
- Biden has yet to say how he will manage migrant caravans from Central America if they reach the U.S. border, though some experts expect he will return to catch and release policies.
- The Biden campaign said it would end President Donald Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols that require migrants to remain in Mexico as their claims are processed.
Immigration experts expect President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to do away with several of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, though some are skeptical that undoing Trump’s policies will be easy.
Biden’s campaign promised to end for-profit detention centers, undo policies instituted during the Trump administration such as the Migrant Protection Protocols, and to welcome immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees into the country, according to his campaign website.
“I think they’re going to have a difficult time trying to make all the immigration changes that the Biden campaign promised because the Trump administration made a lot of immigration changes, and it’s not going to be so easy to roll them all back as the Biden campaign wishes they could,” Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Lora Ries told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The president-elect promises sweeping change to immigration policy in 2021. https://t.co/jsHcFEyON2
— ABC News (@ABC) December 20, 2020
For-Profit Detention Centers
The Biden campaign promised to end for-profit centers because businesses shouldn’t profit from refugees and people seeking asylum, according to his campaign website. He said he will make sure that facilities that temporarily hold migrants are held to high standards.
“We must have high standards in our detention centers, and the fact is that our immigrant community has become a source of profit for these private corporations,” League of United Latin American Citizens CEO Sindy Benavides told the DCNF. “Overall, detention centers need to be reviewed to make sure that we have practices in place that are human.”
Benavides cited reports of the lack of care and uniformity when it comes to illegal immigrants accessing healthcare and medical treatment such as the multiple allegations against a private ICE detention center in Georgia where female detainees were given hysterectomies without their consent. She also said that children in custody at detention centers are frequently given medication that neither they nor their parents consent to.
However, county jails don’t have the budget to maintain the same high federal detention standards so they won’t contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees because they simply cannot meet the standards, former ICE Director Thomas Homan told the DCNF.
Ries claims that private and for-profit immigration detention centers meet much federal higher standards than other facilities.
“They make the strange boogeyman out of so-called private or for-profit detention centers, yet what’s ironic is these standards for immigration detention are so high that they exceed the federal bureau of prisons and many of the state and local sheriffs say they won’t contract with ICE because they can’t afford the standards,” Ries told the DCNF. “I think Americans would be floored at how high the standards are and how generous they are.”
Migrant Caravans, Asylum Claims And Migrant Protection Protocols
The Biden administration has not outlined a plan for processing people if a migrant caravan reaches the U.S. border, though experts believe that Biden would re-institute catch and release policies and eliminate Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) which requires asylum seekers and refugees to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed.
Biden’s pick for domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, said that the Biden administration would not take immediate action to end MPP due to public health concerns, The Washington Post reported.
“In previous years when families entered the U.S. they were released into the community, and I would say most of them did follow up and check-in with the local court as they were mandated, so we know that there are alternative ways that the U.S. government can work with refugees and immigrants,” Benavides told the DCNF.
Around 43% of illegal immigrants pending trial failed to appear in court in 2017, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Among unaccompanied children, 46% disappeared from immigration courts between 2013 and 2017 and 49% failed to appear in court in 2017.
“They would return to a policy of catch and release because there are only so many detention beds and when those are exceeded, you’ve got no more beds to detain people in and so they release them into the interior of the country and say ‘show up for court,’ which many of them never do,” Ries told the DCNF.
Recently a migrant caravan from Central America attempted to head to the U.S. after hurricanes and economic downturn though they were stopped at the Guatemalan border and not allowed to continue through the country. The migrants, mostly young people and a few mothers with children, say that they “lost everything” and have “no choice” but to go to the U.S., Reuters reported.
“What we’re seeing is that a lot of these individuals that are migrating from some of the countries that were just hit by natural disasters are being turned away or held at the Guatemalan border, so they’re not even able to reach the U.S. border to file for humanitarian relief or asylum,” Benavides told the DCNF. “So many of them aren’t even able to reach the U.S. border to do that.”
Rice said that the incoming administration will “need time” to overturn Trump’s immigration policies and expressed concern that if policies are lifted too quickly the U.S. could experience a migration surge, The Post reported.
“Migrants and asylum seekers absolutely should not believe those in the region peddling the idea that the border will suddenly be fully open to process everyone on Day 1. It will not,” Rice said, The Post reported.
“Our priority is to reopen asylum processing at the border consistent with the capacity to do so safely and to protect public health, especially in the context of COVID-19. This effort will begin immediately, but it will take months to develop the capacity that we will need to reopen fully,” Rice said.
How it started: How it’s going: pic.twitter.com/4BnraENbGT
— Brianna Westbrook (@BWestbrookAZ8) December 22, 2020
DACA, Temporary Protected Status And Enforcement
The Biden campaign said Trump’s decision to temporarily end DACA disrupted the lives of “millions” of recipients and dreamers, according to his campaign website. The Biden campaign said that dreamers and their parents should have a pathway to citizenship and that he will reinstate the program.
“LULAC is pushing for there to be action on day one,” Benavides told the DCNF. She said that LULAC expects a Biden administration to reinstate DACA and Temporary Protected Status within the first 100 days.
Benavides added that Biden should consider expanding Temporary Protected Status to cover migrants and asylum seekers from Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and all of the countries that recently experienced a natural disaster.
The Biden campaign said the administration won’t deport veterans or their families and that he will work on reuniting those who have been with their families, according to the campaign website.
“We hope to see a freeze of enforcement practices, and a moratorium of worksite raids, to help deported veterans, we want to see a moratorium on deportations of military service members who have served and fought for our country to be able to provide advanced parole for them,” Benavides told the DCNF.
“If our veterans are abroad they’re targeted by the criminal elements simply because of the skills that they have learned through our own military … they’re killed on the spot, so their lives are literally on the line,” Benavides added.
The Biden campaign said it will increase training for agents and independent oversight of ICE and Customs and Border Protection agencies, though his plan does not address potentially defunding ICE as many progressives have advocated for, according to his campaign website.
Neither Rice nor Biden’s pick for national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, commented on the incoming administration’s plans for dealing with Trump’s border wall, interior enforcement or several other key policies instituted by the Trump administration, The Post reported.