With the 2020 presidential election four weeks away, the country is (pending some new "black swan event" in a year that has seen a bevy of them) faced with two choices as it relates to immigration enforcement: President Trump's ongoing enforcement efforts, and the proposals of former Vice President Joe Biden. Suffice it to say that they are significantly divergent.
The Importance of Immigration to Voters
In my last post, I reported that a September 10 Health Tracking Poll from KFF lists "immigration" as the sixth most important issue to registered voters, with just 4 percent stating that it is the "most important" in deciding for whom they would vote to be president. I explained, however, how each of the five issues deemed more important — the economy (32 percent), the coronavirus outbreak (20 percent), criminal justice and policing (16 percent), race relations (14 percent), and health care (10 percent) — were impacted to one degree or another by immigration.
Where the candidates stand on immigration policy will likely have more significant impacts on the future of the Republic than even the current pandemic and its attendant (and manifold) consequences. Despite this fact, their current positions are not the topic of much discussion in the media, or at least much of the media.
Trump on Immigration, Generally
The president has had the opportunity, over the past 45 months, to implement many of his immigration plans with, as my colleague Mark Krikorian recently explained in National Review, differing degrees of success. The border has been beefed up, refugee admissions have been decreased, H-1B issuance has been improved, and restrictions have been placed on certain individuals from countries deemed to pose a national security or terrorism threat.
The Trump administration has also issued a revised "public charge" rule, barring immigrants who are likely to receive public benefits from receiving green cards. That new rule altered "field guidance", issued by the Clinton administration in 1999, limiting those restrictions to cash benefits. The new public charge rule has survived numerous court challenges, and only recently took effect, more than a year after it was promulgated.
As Krikorian noted, however, there has not been any significant immigration legislation under the 45th president, and therefore: "All the changes undertaken by this administration, as with the prior two, are the result of executive actions of various kinds. Such measures are much easier for a subsequent administration to reverse than are changes in the underlying laws."
Biden on immigration, Generally
The former vice president has outlined his immigration proposals in his "Plan for Securing our Values as a Nation of Immigrants", and in public statements both before and since.
I analyzed that plan in a January 3 post. In addition to promising to work with Congress to pass an amnesty for "nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants", Biden promises to roll back most Trump-administration immigration initiatives, and reinstate and expand administrative actions taken by the "Obama-Biden administration".
Significantly, Biden has stated that he will impose a 100-day moratorium (from his inauguration) on removals, and then will only deport aliens convicted of undefined "felonies" thereafter (not to include drunk drivers). In fact, he has threatened to fire ICE officers who arrest and deport any otherwise removable alien who has not been convicted of such a "felony".
Areas of Agreement
There are some (but not many) immigration policies on which the two candidates agree — in the abstract. Not that the two candidates agree on even that fact, and they likely have very different visions of the finished product.
For example, both promise protection to DACA recipients, Biden initially by reinstating the program, and Trump through legislation.
Both vow to reform high-skilled temporary worker visas, so that, in the former vice president's words, they are not "used to disincentivize recruiting workers already in the U.S. for in-demand occupations". And both promote integration and assimilation of new immigrants.
Finally, both oppose family-separation policies at the border, which the president ended by executive order in June 2018. That executive order likely did not go far enough for Biden, given the fact that the vice president refers to it in line three of his plan.