Photo: Getty/Adobe Spark
Photo: Getty/Adobe Spark

Biden’s “21st Century Immigration system” unpacked

The former vice president’s Unity Task force is “determined” to build a 21st century immigration system. But what does that entail, exactly?


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In an echo to former President Obama’s vision for a 21st century immigration policy, former vice president Joe Biden has presented a 21st century immigration system, as part of his Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations.

The Unity Task force report comes in at 110 pages and covers six key issues: healthcare, the economy, climate change, criminal justice, education, and lastly, immigration.

The recommendations are vastly different from Biden’s previous, more moderate approaches to immigration during the Obama-era, which emphasized legal entry, with an exception for DREAMers. The Obama administration’s plans also emphasized border security and funneling resources to prevent illegal entry.

The task-force document emphasizes that the root causes of migration are violence and insecurity, poverty, corruption, education, economic opportunity, and climate change, adding that the only way to end systemic racism extends to policies at the border, detention centers, and through immigration law enforcement agencies

Moderates and conservatives have criticized the Bernie-Biden task force policies to be too leftist, but the proposals aren’t meant to grab their attention. Instead, Biden is using the allure of Bernie to votes of a younger crowd, progressives, and Latinos

Here’s the rundown of policy highlights; the full report can be read here.

Border Security

The Unity Task force wants to end several Trump-era policies, starting with the border wall, which took military funds to construct.

The policies also seek to end discriminatory immigration bans that disproportionately impact Muslims and individuals from African countries.

DREAMers and a path to citizenship

Protections for DREAMers would be reinstated and expanded, while providing a roadmap to citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers in the nation. The roadmap includes fast-tracking the naturalization process, while making it more efficient and less costly. 

Improve the asylum and detainment process

Asylum would be extended, including ending the requirement to apply from “third safe countries,” which the document calls “far from safe.” Efforts to curb refugee admittance would also end, and the annual visa cap for victims of sexual trafficking and abuse would be expanded.

Detention centers will be seen as a last resort, and for-profit detention centers will no longer be used. Instead, community-based alternatives will be used. Health and safety at these facilities, especially with COVID-19, will be a priority. Family separation will not be tolerated.

Immigrants’ quality of life in the US

Workplace and community immigration raids, like the ones conducted by ICE will be ended. The five-year waiting periods for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance program eligibility for low-income, lawfully present immigrants will also be ended. The Task Force is also working to end the Trump Administration’s immigrant wealth test.

Employers who abuse immigrant employees will be held accountable through the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act.


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