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One year into President Joe Biden’s tenure, we take a look at the status of some of his key campaign promises surrounding immigration. President Biden came into office promising to undo the aggressive policies of the previous administration, and usher in a more humane approach. Amna Nawaz lays out how he’s doing on that front.
One year into President Biden's tenure we are taking a look at the status of some of his key campaign promises.
Today, we dive into immigration. President Biden came into office promising to undo the aggressive policies of the previous administration and usher in a more humane approach.
Amna Nawaz is here to lay out how he's doing on those fronts.
So, Amna, as we're suggesting, big promises from then-candidate Joe Biden. How, as President Biden, has he made a difference on those promises?
So, Judy, you're absolutely right. He came into office saying he's not just going to undo what the previous president had done. He's going to create and work toward a more fair, more humane overall immigration system.
And to that point, some of his earliest executive actions as soon as he came into office were immigration-related. Take a look at just some of them. In his first days in office, President Biden stopped construction of the border wall. He ended the Trump era travel bans. He created the Family Reunification Task Force to find and reunify those families separated under the Trump administration. And he reinstated DACA, that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields dreamers from deportation.
But, Judy, he also started to lay out a broader groundwork and strategy for how to address some of the changes that, quite frankly, people have been calling for, for decades, in a system that really hasn't had meaningful reform in over 30 years.
And, specifically, let me ask you about at the Southern border.
I mean, we know this has gotten so much attention. It's been the subject of so much political debate. The in — migration into the country has continued. What changes has President Biden made?
Well, Judy, as you know, as our viewers know, every modern president has — president has grappled with managing migration there.
And we should note the numbers at the Southern border were rising even before President Biden came into office. After he was sworn in, they really did start to dramatically rise, up to a 20-year high last year.
But, as a candidate, Mr. Biden was very, very forceful about speaking out about the Trump policies at the border, specifically some that kept asylum seekers to — forcing them to stay in Mexico while their cases here unfolded, and also one pandemic rule that essentially shut down border traffic altogether.
In fact, here's how Mr. Biden talked about that back in August of 2020.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: We're going to restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers.
My lord, we have never — we have never made asylum seekers stay — seek asylum outside the United States of America.
Judy, since then, some of those promises have run up into some real-world realities.
He did try to end MPP. That was the program that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. It went to the courts. The courts ruled against him. They had to put that back into place. So that rule remains in place.
But President Biden has also not tried to end Title 42. That's that pandemic rule that forced people basically to be expelled immediately after they tried to cross the border. He created some carve-outs for children and families. But that rule from the Trump administration also remains in place.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes we have seen, though, when it comes to the border is something that happens hundreds of miles away from the border. And that was the Biden administration's decision to prioritize and invest in root causes, the reasons that people leave their countries in the first place.
Vice President Harris was put in charge of that. They have already secured over a billion dollars in private sector and other commitments. It's potentially huge change, Judy. But that's the kind of change that will take a while to show up.
So that's immigrants. We're talking about people outside the country.
But what about the undocumented people who live inside, who have already moved to this country, the dreamers, for example? What promises has the president made for them? And has he fulfilled them?
Well, candidate Biden was very forceful and specific about his plans for that population.
Here's how we talked about it back in October of 2020.
Within 100 days, I'm going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people.
And all of those so-called dreamers, those DACA kids, they're going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship.
So, Judy, day one in office, President Biden did reinstate DACA. But that, of course, is temporary. There is still no permanent solution. That would have to come through Congress.
We actually asked a young undocumented woman by the name of Eva Santos about what she thinks the President Biden's record so far. Here's what she had to say.
Eva Santos, DACA Recipient:
He also promised to protect and expand programs like DACA and provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people like me. And we remain under limbo.
So, I think it is more than obvious that he has fallen short on each of his promises.
Judy, the other big change, of course, was changing the enforcement guidelines for ICE. He raised the bar, meaning people aren't arrested and deported unless they're considered security threats or they have committed crimes. That's a big change from the previous administration.
All this, Amna, reminding us what a complicated set of issues is involved around immigration. It couldn't be hotter politically.
So, to sum it up, I mean, what does this first year under President Biden tell you about what could be done in coming years?
Well, Judy, perhaps the biggest change from this administration to the last has just been the way they talk about immigration.
There's been a rhetorical reestablishment that immigration is central to this country as a core value. But, again and again, President Biden has run up against some of the same challenges as previous presidents have. And that is to say, until Congress acts on a lot of these issues, until the laws are changed, a broken immigration system will largely remain broken.
No question, one of the toughest set of issues confronting this president.
Amna Nawaz, thanks very much.
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Amna Nawaz joined PBS NewsHour in April 2018 and serves as the program's chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor.
Saher Khan is a reporter-producer for the PBS NewsHour.
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