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President Joe Biden and Alejandro Mayorkas have inherited a broken immigration system. Photo: Getty Images
President Joe Biden and Alejandro Mayorkas have inherited a broken immigration system. Photo: Getty Images

Biden’s latest immigration executive orders leave some pleas unmet

Amid a flurry of executive orders, immigration rights advocates are left without “sweeping” reform. 

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Biden has proceeded with what has now become his daily barrage of executive orders serving to reverse Trump era policy. This time, focused on immigration.

On Feb. 3, he created a task force that reunites migrant children separated from their families — which the government has lost — rebuilding a working asylum system, and restoring opportunities for foreign workers and students to enter the states.

Over the campaign trail, Biden promised to welcome immigrants and to treat them with “respect,” and so far he’s been delivering on his many vows slowly by continuously rolling back hundreds of Trump’s immigration actions

“I’m not making new laws. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden said at his executive order  signing on Feb. 2. 

Hours earlier, Kamala Harris swore in Alejandro Mayorkas, the first Latino and immigrant to hold the position of Secretary of Homeland security, a position that has been vacant for nearly two years, and illegally held by acting secretary Chad Wolf under Trump

Human rights activists expect Mayorkas to implement the “sweeping” immigration change Biden has been promising for months, to change the country’s immigration policy away from a system that dehumanizes immigrants.

However, actions so far have not been anything but a return to the pre-Trump era, which was nothing to boast about.

As Biden said, he’s not making new laws and implementing reforms, he’s reversing. 

For months, immigration advocates and leaders, as well as progressive legislators have been pushing real sweeping changes. 

They’ve commended the actions President Biden has already taken, from the moratorium on deportations, an end to the zero tolerance policy that forced child separation, and the restoration of DACA.

The measures made within his first weeks as President have been “promising,” as Rep. Raul Ruiz Grijalva (D-AZ), described them, but they don’t address key issues that, especially amid a pandemic, need to be addressed.

Other reps and leaders have said a return isn’t possible because the issues in the immigration system didn’t begin within the last four years.

What they’re calling for

Immigration advocates across the nation are calling for a termination of all third-country agreements and all other Trump era rules and regulations that violate human rights and protections. 

Said groups include Alianza Americas, Presente, Shut Down Berks Coalition, and dozens more.

They also want to ensure immediate processing and entry by migrants harmed by Trump-era protocols and exclusionary practices like Metering.

They are also calling to increase the refugee quota to 125,000 and rebuild the resettlement program, end family detention, and push for an expedited citizenship plan for essential workers and their families, as well as all 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

Immigration and Customs enforcement will be another hurdle Biden and Mayorkas will have to address. Recently ICE has been defying the president’s orders, and pushing through with select deportations across the country. 

ICE has also grown to play a notorious part in the treatment of immigrants from Latin America and the Pacific Asian-Americans. 

Among the biggest issues garnering attention is that of essential workers. 

“Immigrant workers continue to be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many risking their lives every day to service our nation and keep the American economy going. The time is now to ensure permanent protections for them and their families,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. 

He added that at a minimum, families should be offered the chance to reunite and settle as permanent residents. This, to make up for years long injuries and the aid they've provided to the nation during the pandemic. 

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus collectively voiced disappointment after the House COVID-19 budget reconciliation blueprint didn’t include protections for essential workers, Dreamers, and Temporary Protected Status holders.

“We will continue to make a path to pass immigration reform, protections for #Dreamers, #TPS-holders, and essential workers like, #farmworkers. We will get there,” the CHC wrote on Twitter.

While both the House leadership and Biden have not addressed the widespread demands for protecting undocumented essential workers, there is legislation in the works. 

Rep. Joaquin Castro is currently drafting a bill to make a framework for undocumented essential workers to be part of COVID recovery. Recently, Castro, Sen. Alex Padilla, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote an op-ed on the movement and pending legislation for CNN.

“All frontline workers should have access to vaccinations, including undocumented and uninsured workers. But health equity extends beyond just Covid-19: All essential workers should have access to the health care they need, regardless of immigration status,” the piece reads.

Among all the immigration reforms advocates are calling for, aid for essential workers amid a pandemic is arguably the most pressing. In any case, Biden and Mayorkas have their plates full of the demands for change which have only piled for decades.

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