WASHINGTON—One of the widest policy gaps between the Democrat and Republican platforms this election season is in border security and immigration.
While President Donald Trump is celebrating 10 miles of new wall being built on the southern border per week, Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he would immediately halt construction.
“[Trump’s] obsession with building a wall does nothing to address security challenges while costing taxpayers billions of dollars,” Biden’s campaign website states. As senator, Biden voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act.
Conversely, the Border Patrol union endorsed Trump for reelection on Aug. 18, in part due to the increased operational capacity the new border wall provides agents.
Almost 300 miles of wall have been built—including accompanying roads, cameras, and sensors—and another 433 are in varying stages of design and construction, according to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Joe Biden is the puppet of the radical left-wing movement that seeks the complete elimination of America’s borders and boundaries,” Trump said from Yuma, Arizona, on Aug. 18.
Citizenship for Illegal Aliens
Biden promises to provide a pathway to citizenship for all illegal aliens living in the United States—an estimated 11 million to 25 million people.
He also supports free health care for illegal immigrants.
Biden said he will reverse Trump’s public charge rule, which currently prohibits non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents from accessing food stamps and other welfare benefits. He also states he would give Green Cards to foreign students who obtain a doctoral degree in the United States.
“The Biden plan would unleash a flood of illegal immigration like the world has never seen,” Trump said.
Trump’s executive order ending the Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was blocked by the Supreme Court, which held open the possibility of revisiting its decision if the administration resubmitted its petition.
The program gives eligible illegal immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children, immunity from deportation and renewable two-year work visas. It was set up via a 2012 executive order by former President Barack Obama. Trump has offered Congress a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
Trump supports moving to a merit-based immigration system similar to that of Canada or Australia, where most immigrants are chosen according to the skill and education needs of the country.
Currently, about two-thirds of the 1.1 million Green Cards issued per year are based solely on family connections, also known as “chain migration.”
“Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world—anybody,” Trump said at a May 2019 event at the White House. “The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent, and we’d like to even see if we can go higher.”
Biden would continue the chain migration system, but would “work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration,” according to his website. His plan also includes a pathway to citizenship for agricultural workers.
Biden has promised to stop workplace enforcement of illegal workers and those who employ them, while the Trump administration has stepped up those efforts.
Biden has promised to undo the administration’s travel bans from terror-prone countries.
“The Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim bias hurts our economy, betrays our values, and can serve as a powerful terrorist recruiting tool,” Biden states on his campaign website.
“It is yet another abuse of power by the Trump Administration designed to target primarily black and brown immigrants.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imposed travel restrictions in 2017 and 2018 on Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela for failing to meet minimum background check requirements or using poor passport technology.
In January, DHS suspended the issuance of visas that can lead to permanent residency for nationals of Burma, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, and Eritrea, as well as banned nationals from Sudan and Tanzania from the U.S. diversity visa program. Trump has said he wants to cancel the diversity visa lottery program altogether, which currently gives up to 50,000 green cards to randomly selected foreign nationals.
Asylum and Refugee Policies
Trump capped the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in fiscal 2020 at 18,000.
“This proposed ceiling takes into account the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on our border and the massive asylum backlog, which now includes nearly 1 million individuals,” the administration said in a September 2019 statement. States and cities must now also opt-in to have refugees settled in their regions.
Biden intends to increase the refugee ceiling to 125,000 per year, as well as vastly expand government resources for immigrants, including opening “Welcome Centers” to help immigrants find jobs, access services, navigate the school system, and health care system.
He has also indicated a widening of asylum criteria, which would likely vastly increase the number of asylum-seekers coming through the southern border.
Trump introduced the Migrant Protection Protocols late in 2019, which has been expanded across the southern border and now results in 90 percent of illegal border-crossers either being quickly deported, or being sent back to Mexico to await their asylum claim. The impact has been fewer illegal crossings and fewer meritless asylum claims.
Biden says he would prioritize ending the Migrant Protection Protocol program. He would also begin a four-year, $4 billion package of assistance for Central American countries.
In 2019, the Trump administration cut $450 million in aid to the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras after their governments refused to dismantle large caravans of migrants coming north, on top of other issues about repatriating criminals.
In June, the State Department announced $252 million in additional aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Trump has also forged cooperation agreements with Central American countries to help with regional asylum issues.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
In a recent interview with La Raza, Biden promised to “re-prioritize our enforcement resources away” from Latino communities.
“Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants,” states Biden’s website.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that handles interior enforcement and investigates crimes such as human trafficking, has made more than 380,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records over the last three years.
“The Biden–Harris plan is a step-by-step recipe for abolishing America’s borders,” Trump said.