Where they stand

President Biden's shifting views on immigration

Where does the president stand on the controversial topics of immigration, border policy, and asylum?

President Biden's time in the White House has been marked by shifting views on immigration. Biden has revoked rules that would hinder immigrants from becoming citizens, and also proposed reforms to crack down on illegal immigration. Reports suggest the president is considering reinstating the controversial practice of detaining migrant families. Where exactly does he stand on the issue? 

What is the Biden administration's immigration policy?

The White House is focused on reducing "the number of individuals crossing unlawfully between ports of entry" by increasing border security, according to a fact sheet released by the White House. Biden extended the controversial Title 42, enacted by the Trump administration during COVID-19. This portion of the U.S. Code allows expulsions of immigrants on the basis of public health safety. Despite Biden pledging to end the practice when he took office, in January of 2023 he announced new policies that "would essentially expand" the allowance of expulsions, PBS News notes, and permit restrictive immigration policies to continue even as the COVID-19 emergency declaration is set to expire in May and render Title 42 moot. Biden's replacement plan for Title 42 is the "toughest policy yet to crack down on unlawful entries," The New York Times says.

Biden's Venezuela initiative, which was put forth in October 2022, sought to stem the flow of migrants coming to the United States from Venezuela. Migrants looking to enter the U.S. from Venezuela "will have to apply, have a sponsor in the U.S., and undergo screening and vetting, as well as complete vaccinations," CNN reports. The initiative "resulted in a dramatic drop" in illegal immigration from Venezuela, the White House claimed, and the administration is looking to implement the program on a wider international scale.

For those looking to enter the country legally, the administration has pledged to allow up to 30,000 immigrants per month to enter the U.S. from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, and will also triple immigration quotas from Caribbean nations. The White House says that this will create an easier path to legal citizenship for those seeking asylum. 

Have Biden's views on immigration evolved over time?  

Both Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, "have built their careers in Democratic politics in part by touting their families' immigration stories," writes The Washington Post. On the campaign trail, Biden expressed regret over the Obama administration's immigration policies, which "deported hundreds of thousands of people without criminal records," The Associated Press says. He called the practices a "big mistake" and promised to expand legal immigration and the asylum process, should he be elected. "We stand up and act like [immigration is] a burden," he said. "It is not a burden. It's a gift."

When he took office, he appeared "one of the most liberal Democratic presidents on immigration yet," taking aim at Trump immigration policies even while "border apprehensions swelled," the Post says. But then he ran into the "hard reality of border politics."  

Administration officials pointed their fingers at Republicans, but also Congress, saying it failed to pass legislation overhauling immigration laws, The New York Times reports. They said Biden's new measures would discourage those without legitimate asylum claims from trying to cross the border. 

What has the reaction been? 

Biden has faced criticism for his alleged flip-flopping on immigration policies, particularly when it comes to expulsions. Biden's proposal to stop migrants "represents a blatant embrace of hateful and illegal anti-asylum policies, which will lead to unnecessary human suffering," said Marisa Limón Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, per The Guardian

Is Biden "stuck in the Trump era?" asks The New Yorker. A headline from Politico blared, "Biden to replace Trump migration policy with Trump-esque asylum policy." Still, the number of border-crossing attempts has dropped by 40 percent since December, Politico reported, and the administration is eager to take the credit.

Republicans insist Biden doesn't have the border situation in hand. He has "lost control of the U.S.-Mexican border," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. The GOP has offered its own immigration proposal that would funnel more resources into border security, protect DREAMers, create more visas for agricultural workers, and offer a 10-year path to " a renewable legal status for undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crimes," The Hill explains. 

Recent reports suggest Biden, "squeezed at the border," is considering reinstating one of the most controversial immigration policies: detaining migrant families. The practice, The New York Times notes, was used by Trump, as well as former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

"Ending the inhumane practice of family detention has been one of the only positive immigration policy decisions of the Biden administration," immigration attorney Leecia Welch told the Times. "It is heartbreaking to hear there could be a return to the Trump-era use of this practice."


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