Blog by, LSSNCA Advocacy Associate, John Murphy
President-elect Joe Biden’s Immigration Plan and an Interview with Dr. Mamadou Sy.
Now that he has been declared the president-elect, Joe Biden promises to hit the ground running once after his inauguration on January 20, 2021. Much of what he is proposing constitutes a reversal of the measures put in place by his predecessor to slow down, if not stop, the flow of refugees and immigrants to the United States.
In his first 100 days, the President-elect says he will:
- Halt further construction of the wall on the southern border. Last year when Congress refused to provide funding for the wall President Trump declared a national emergency allowing him to divert funds from military capital projects to help pay for the wall’s construction.
- Withdraw National Guard troops from the southern border where they had been sent to provide support to U.S. Customs and Immigration personnel.
- Propose legislation to Congress providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented persons now residing in the U.S. However, such legislation may be a hard sell in the Republican Senate assuming it retains control after the two run-off races in Georgia.
- Reverse such policies as:
- Overturning the “public charge” rule which would penalize persons who had relied on public services during the time before they gained permanent residency. This will take time because it will have to undergo the rule-making process of public comment.
- Ending the practice of “family separation” at the southern border whereby children were separated from their families under the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
- Ending the so-called “Muslim Ban,” where entry to the U.S. is banned for persons from majority Muslim countries.
- Keeping asylum-seekers in Mexico under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” until their claims are adjudicated.
- Restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which allows undocumented children brought into the country when they were young to avoid deportation and obtain work permits for two-year periods, which are renewable.
- Increase the ceiling on the number of new refugees that may be admitted to this country for Fiscal Year 2021 from the Trump Administration’s 15,000 to 125,000.
- End workplace enforcement raids.
- Expand opportunities for legal immigration including family and work-based visas.
- Focus immigration enforcement on those who pose a threat to public safety and national security.
- Employ “smart border” technologies to maintain border security.
- Form a task force to find the parents of 545 children who were separated at the border and can’t be found.
Envisioning a reality
We called LSSNCA VP for Operations, Dr. Mamadou Sy, to better understand how a Biden administration would directly impact our work with refugees and immigrants. Mamadou welcomed a Biden plan for refugee resettlement saying, “They represent a distinctly pro-immigrant mindset, designed to offer welcome and opportunity to our less fortunate brothers and sisters. They are commonsense and will make it easier for resettlement agencies to do their jobs.”
With President-elect Biden’s intention to raise the refugee admissions ceiling from 15,000 people to 125,000, we wonder how this will impact a resettlement system which has been seen great losses of capacity within the last four years. Can the current resettlement system handle such a large increase?
Mamadou is confident it can: “This new level would be the highest number since 1994. It will require resettlement agencies like LSSNCA to quickly gear up following January 20th with little more than six months to do so. These agencies will have to staff up (offering incentives to attract the best), open new or closed service sites, renew partnerships with congregations and generally, through outreach, engage the community who will help in the resettlement of these people.”
It will be extremely important for LSSNCA, and other like agencies, to have the support of congregations and community partners. According to Mamadou, “We need to remember that refugees are not refugees of the resettlement agencies, they are refugees of the communities that welcome them. We need to engage those communities, assess, educate and support them. Resettlement agencies will have to increase staffing (more case managers and volunteers), open/expand service sites and re-engage with congregations.”
We asked Mamadou more questions regarding other immigration policy. Read the transcript below:
Q. The Biden plan calls for legislation to provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented individuals. How realistic is this objective?
A. This objective is very realistic. We must as a society bring these people out of the shadows and get them active in the community. We can’t continue to turn our backs on them. We’ve got to stop threatening them with deportation and make them productive members of our communities.
Q. The President-elect has said he will do away with the “public charge” rule that penalizes individuals who take advantage of government assistance in seeking permanent residency. What effect has this rule had on LSS clients?
A. It would help a lot to get rid of this rule. People are afraid now to seek benefits to which they are entitled because they could be penalized. This has been very difficult for them particularly during the existing pandemic. It would remove the fear.
Q. Any comment on his intention to reverse the policy of keeping asylum-seekers in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols pending adjudication of their claim?
A. The Migrant Protection Protocols are complete nonsense. The U.S. is a party to international treaties that allow asylum-seekers to apply for asylum in the U.S. The U.S. should pave the way for other countries to follow. We can’t outsource this to other countries. In such countries they lack legal representation to plead their case, and that is a real impediment to their succeeding in their claim of asylum.
Q. What about the Trump policy of family separation at the border? Mr. Biden has vowed to end this practice.
A. We’ve seen the awful effect of this policy of separating children from their families at the southern border. The fact is that the families of some 666 children can’t be found by the current administration. This is so cruel and will impact these children for years to come. These families are escaping violence in their home countries and when they come to the U.S., they’re subjected to a humanitarian nightmare. It must end.
Q. Finally, please comment on the President -elect’s plan to restore DACA.
A. This is a necessity. These DACA young people can’t be adversely affected by decisions made by their parents to come to the U.S. when they were children. They need the assurance that they can pursue their schooling or their job without the constant fear of deportation. They also need a path to U.S. citizenship. This country needs them.
For more information on how you can directly serve refugees and immigrants in your community, visit LSSNCA.org to learn more about our volunteer opportunities.