Within hours of taking office, President Joe Biden dissolved some of Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, raising tentative hopes that millions who live in the shadows might one day be granted legal status in the United States.
Scrawled signatures from his pen lifted entry bans on Wednesday for people from many Muslim-majority nations and halted construction of Trump’s border wall with Mexico, encouraging immigration defenders ravaged by four years of America First nationalism.
Proponents, however, see new struggles ahead, including whether lawmakers can finally overhaul the nation’s immigration system, which has been classified as “broken,” with around 11 million undocumented people in limbo.
However, these discussions didn’t start until the Trump administration just left the White House.
His so-called “Muslim ban”, which was directed against citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen in 2017, sparked international outrage and led to domestic court rulings.
Iraq and Sudan were removed from the list, but in 2018 the Supreme Court upheld a later version of the ban for the other nations – as well as North Korea and Venezuela.
As part of his first deeds, Biden signed new protections for so-called “dreamers” – immigrants who arrived illegally as children and had been temporarily protected from deportation by a program that Trump attempted to dismantle.
In addition, the new president overturned an order from his predecessor and pushed for aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants. Most of the deportations were suspended for 100 days.
Immigration advocates broke out to support Biden’s first orders.
“There is this dark cloud that used to hang over our heads and disappear,” said Camille Mackler, the executive director of a pro-migrant advocacy group that was formed against bans on Muslim nations.
“After four years of war on immigration and immigrants, this feels like the beginning of a new day,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
“I think (this) is quite a significant first day unilateral action for a president,” she added.
Aura Hernandez, a 39-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who has no papers, breathed a sigh of relief.
“The last four years have been the worst of my life,” said the mother of five, who sought refuge in a Manhattan church for several months in 2018 to avoid deportation.
But like millions of others in her position, Hernandez must hold hope in check because Biden’s executive ordinances do not change the very foundations of the nation’s immigration system.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the president’s candidate to head the country’s Homeland Security division, said this week that Biden has committed to putting an immigration reform bill to Congress on day one that will establish once and for all what we can all agree on is a broken immigration system. “
Previous efforts to adopt major system reform have come temptingly close, but ultimately failed. The powerful Democratic Senator Bob Menendez had to describe what he expects as a “Herculean” effort in Congress this time around.
A bill would allow undocumented immigrants who pay taxes and have no previous convictions or national security problems to work legally for six years and then gain some possible avenue to permanent legal status.
Menendez noted that 60 out of 100 votes would be needed for Senate passage, which means Democrats would need bipartisan support.
Immigration reform is a particularly sensitive issue for Republicans who were skeptical of regularization, some of whom will stand for re-election in 2022.
Menendez urged business, especially in the immigrant-intensive agribusiness and technology sectors, to press Republicans into action.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said Wednesday he was ready to work with the Biden government and Congress to find “comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”
Nevertheless, any reform proposal would likely require negotiations and thus compromises, Menendez noted.
The legal status of millions of undocumented people “is a major immigration problem that has not been resolved in decades,” said Sahar Aziz, a law professor at Rutgers University.
“Every time a Democratic president tries to find a route to citizenship, the Republicans push back.”
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)