The subject of immigration has long been one of the key agendas for the American elections. Different candidates and different presidents have had different views on the topic, some open and cautious, some downright hard-line and hostile. For a nation whose economy was built on relentless efforts of its diverse population made up of immigrants and native citizens, the “American dream” has always been a dream for “everyone”.
As the 2020 presidential elections head towards the final countdown this November, the American people must choose between President Donald Trump from the republicans and Vice President Joe Biden from the Democrats, as their next president. The next president who, among many other things, will decide the fate of immigration for the USA.
President Trump had built his presidential campaign in 2016 around the premise of the ‘risks posed by immigration’ and the promise of strict regulations for aspiring and existing immigrants alike, going so far as to promise the erection of a border wall along the U.S – Mexico border, setting up detention centres for illegal immigrants, and even making changes to the legal immigration system to turn away able and skilled legal immigrants. After being elected, the president made through on most of those promises. The Trump administration proceeded to clamp down on all forms of immigration, starving businesses and corporations alike of skilled workers, and separating families from their loved ones. The chances are that if he is re-elected into office, he will continue to choke the immigration system until, eventually, skilled workers will look at other countries as an option.
If Joe Biden is elected, however, there is a possibility of loosening of restrictions, especially when it comes to topics of H1B visas, border security and more. Here are a few critical issues regarding immigration and where each presidential candidate stands on these issues.
H1B Skilled Worker Program
The H1B Skilled Worker Program (H1B visa) allowed companies to sponsor and bring skilled immigrants from different countries over to the U.S for purposes of employment, and eventual citizenship.
President Donald Trump has been slowly restricting H1B visa immigration by making ill-advised policy changes which rejected H1B visa applications on flimsy grounds. New restrictions raising the minimum wage limit for skilled workers by 40 per cent of the original are being implemented on Monday, 19th October. You can read more about this in our article on its effects on immigrants and citizens here (NOTE TO EDITOR: YOU CAN LINK THE TRUMP IMMIGRATION ARTICLE HERE.)
While many, if not all, of these policy changes, were reversed by either the supreme court or the numerous federal courts across the country, it is expected that Trump will continue to implement harsher rules and restrictions on immigration if re-elected into office.
Since the initial stages of the campaign, Joe Biden has already been opposed to Trump’s take on legal immigration. He has proven time and again that he understands that the “American Dream” is built on diversity and inclusiveness. He also understands the potential long term impact of the Trump administration’s ill-advised decisions would have on the U.S Economy.
If elected President, Joe Biden intends to reform the H1B worker program. He intends to reverse and re-interpret most, if not all, of the changes Trump has made to the program (such as 15 year-long wait times for dependent visas). Joe also intends to approach the congress about increasing the limit on the number of H1B applications and also rethink visa criteria such as work experience, wage levels, and minimum higher-level education required.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
The DACA program was designed to provide work permits, temporary legal status, and other protections to children brought to the U.S by undocumented/illegal immigrants. This program was initiated under the Obama administration and has had over 700,000 recipients and counting.
In 2017, Trump proposed to the congress that the DACA Program should be shuttered and a new, stricter program should be put in place. Trump threatened to “revisit the issue later”, if they didn’t. That being said, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2020, stating that Trump cannot immediately end DACA.
Bear in mind that the Supreme Court cannot decide based on effectiveness or sound policies of DACA that is not their concern. Their prime concern is whether the administration complied with the law to initiate the shutdown for the program. Since these laws were broken in the attempt to shutter DACA, the court deemed the attempt as illegal. This means that, if re-elected, Trump will still have the power to end DACA in the future using a legal route.
Biden welcomed the court’s decision with joy, stating “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who bravely stood up and refused to be ignored.”
Biden has declared his intention to reinstate DACA and add further protection and safety nets to the program, in a move that is opposite of Donald Trump’s.
Asylum Seekers and Refugees
The United States of America receives a large number of refugees and asylum seekers each year. People from countries with unstable or hostile socio-political climates or broken economies would often immigrate to the U.S.A. either legally or illegally, where they will be placed in special centres until a court hears their plea for citizenship, and their fate is decided.
Under the Trump administration, the number of refugees accepted by U.S.A declined annually since his election in 2016. In September 2019, the administration decided to cap the number of refugees being accepted from 30,000 to 18,000. To put this into perspective, the Obama administration accepted more than 85,000 refugees during their last year in power.
Biden has openly stated that he is committed to removing the refugee cap and intends to take in up-to a 125,000 refugees a year. He called Trump’s move an “assault on the dignity of asylum seekers” and boldly stated that he is going to restore America’s moral standing with the world
Joe also intends to change the U.S asylum process if elected. One of the many policies he intends to implement is to appoint more immigration judges to deal with the more than one million backlog cases.
Joe Biden has proven himself to be a level headed person with reasonable policy towards immigration in all its forms; it is still difficult to oracle the fate of U.S immigration until the results of the elections are declared. The possibility of Donald Trump being re-elected is still there and only time will tell what effects will it have on the future of movement of global talent and asylum seekers.