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What could immigration look like after the 2020 presidential election? by Kathryn Augustine

July 21, 2020

Since his inauguration in 2016, President Donald Trump has sought “to protect American communities and American jobs” by strictly policing immigration. (1) 


At the beginning of his term, he signed an executive order to prevent sanctuary cities — cities that protect immigrants and refugees from deportation — from receiving federal funding. (1) In addition, Trump prevented the U.S. from participating in the U.N. General Assembly negotiations for a “Global Compact on Migration,” a compact with goals of regulating international migration, attaining universal human rights for immigrants, and bringing an end to discrimination. (2) Trump felt that the compact took a “pro-migration stance.” (2)   


Trump also led the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to “wind down” Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), a program that gives young, undocumented immigrants protection against deportation, access to U.S. education, and work eligibility. (1) (3)  In conjunction, Trump entirely overturned Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). DAPA is a proposed program for undocumented immigrant parents to obtain citizenship. (1) (4) Trump is an advocate for merit-based immigration and supports prospective immigrants who have certain skills needed to gain entry into the country. (1) 


In terms of border security, he has secured funding for approximately 445 miles of his envisioned border wall and has increased the number and funding of ICE and border patrol agents. (1) By declaring a national emergency, he gained access to “specialized powers” to further control security at the border. (1)


Throughout his presidency, Trump has arrested approximately 300,000 undocumented immigrants and removed a total of approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants from 2017 to 2018.  (1) Comparatively, Barack Obama deported approximately 5.3 million immigrants from 2009 to 2016. (8) He removed about 451,000 to 974,00 immigrants each year of his presidency. (8)


Those are among what Trump identifies as “promises kept” on his 2020 campaign site. (1) 


Gaby Del Valle of The Washington Monthly predicts that if elected, Trump will continue to target undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers and legal immigrants. (5) Additionally, she anticipates expansion of Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PARC) and Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP), two programs that accelerate cases of asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America. (5) Eventually, judges could be granted the authority to make decisions about status and forms of protection without hearing an immigrant’s testimony. (5)


Trump has enforced a rule in which immigrants from Mexico and now Brazil are forced to wait in Mexico, often in dangerous spots along the border, before attending trial in the United States. Del Valle predicts this “Remain in Mexico” policy may be applied to more immigrants of varying nationalities. (5)


The Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, has a starkly different perspective on immigration according to his list of intentions for his first 100 days in office posted on his 2020 campaign site. (6)


Within that period, Biden intends to reverse policies implemented by Trump that allow for the separation of parents from their children at the border. (6)


Additionally, he plans to end restrictive asylum laws put into place by Trump that prevent victims of certain identities, such as Muslims or members of the LGBTQ community, from receiving protection. (6) He says that he will not rescind that protection and return people to unsafe environments in their country of origin. (6)


For those awaiting application assessment, Biden proposes increasing government resources to ensure greater safety. (6) In terms of detention centers for those awaiting a court trial, Biden states that he will reinvest in a case management program that he argues is effective, less expensive and less punitive in nature. (6) 


Trump set forth a public charge rule in line with his desire for merit-based immigration where the income and use of government services can determine someone’s ability to obtain a visa or citizenship. This is something that Biden disagrees with and plans to overturn. (6) He maintains that he will continue to support immigrants regardless of economic standing in addition to DACA, passed by the Obama-Biden administration. (6) 


When it comes to border security, Biden does not want to continue to fund Trump’s wall or continue policies of raids in “sensitive locations” (i.e. hospitals, schools), and instead wants to direct punitive action toward individuals who pose a threat to safety and security. (6) This also means holding ICE accountable and demanding transparency. (6) 


Biden says that he will strive to make the path to citizenship for those with green cards smoother and to fully integrate immigrants and new citizens into the United States through providing communal support. (6) 


According to a New York Times/Siena College Poll as of June 24, Biden is ahead of Trump by 14 percentage points. (7)  


  1. “Immigration.” Promises Kept, Donald Trump, www.promiseskept.com/achievement/overview/immigration/#.
  2. Da Silva, Chantal. “Why Is the Trump Administration So Against the U.N.'s Global Migration Pact?” Newsweek, Newsweek, 10 Dec. 2018, www.newsweek.com/why-trump-administration-so-against-uns-global-migration-pact-1252215.
  3. “What Is DACA and Who Are the DREAMers?” Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Defamation League, 18 June 2020, www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/table-talk/what-is-daca-and-who-are-the-dreamers.
  4. Bendix, Aria. “Trump Rolls Back DAPA.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 16 June 2017, www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/06/trump-rolls-back-dapa-program/530571/.
  5. Del Valle, Gaby. “Trump's Second Term Immigration Agenda.” Washington Monthly, Washington Monthly, 6 Apr. 2020, www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/april-may-june-2020/trumps-second-term-immigration-agenda/.
  6. “The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants.” Joe Biden for President, Joe Biden , 20 Dec. 2019, www.joebiden.com/immigration/.
  7. Burns, Alexander, et al. “Biden Takes Dominant Lead as Voters Reject Trump on Virus and Race.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/us/politics/trump-biden-poll-nyt-upshot-siena-college.html.
  8. Chishti, Muzaffar, et al. “The Obama Record on Deportations: Deporter in Chief or Not?” Migration Policy, Migration Policy Institute , 2 Aug. 2019, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/obama-record-deportations-deporter-chief-or-not.

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