Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke at the APIAVote 2020 Presidential Town Hall June 27 afternoon, promising to immediately re-instate the H-1B program, which was temporarily suspended by the Trump administration last month, and clear the green card backlog once he takes office.
“The people coming in on H-1B visas have built this country,” he stated. President Donald Trump cited unprecedented levels of COVID-related unemployment as he issued a ban on people holding H-1Bs, J-1s, H-2Bs and L-1 visas from entering the country. However, the tech sector has showed low levels of unemployment amid the pandemic, with rates hovering at about 2.5 percent.
Speaking from his home via Zoom, the former vice president began his keynote address by excoriating Trump for cozying up to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin despite allegations dating back to March that Russia had offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. The New York Times broke the story hours before the Town Hall.
“Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference to Putin. It is a betrayal to every single American family. Our troops should never have to face a threat like this,” said Biden.
Trump has said he was never briefed on the allegations, because the information was not credible.
The Town Hall was moderated by PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Amna Navaz. Eddie Baza Calvo, former governor of Guam, spoke as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
Biden said that in his first 100 days in office, he would “go back and undo the damage Trump has done.”
“On Day One, I will have a legislative road map to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who contribute so much to this economy,” stated Biden, noting that there are 1.7 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are undocumented. One out of every 6 Indian Americans — more than 500,000 people — is undocumented, according to Department of Homeland Security data.
Family reunification must be a pillar of our immigration system, “which it used to be,” said Biden.
The Democratic nominee said he would also immediately rescind Trump’s “Muslim ban,” and greatly expand the number of refugees allowed into the country, from the current cap of 15,000 to 95,000 per year.
Biden indicated his intent to streamline the green card process, which has left thousands of Indians with approved applications waiting in a queue that can last for more than 53 years. Currently, the U.S. has caps limiting people in green card queues to just 7 percent per year; unused green cards from one country are not allotted to another country. There is currently legislation in Congress to remove that cap.
Indian American chef Vimala Rajendran, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told Biden about her difficulty in obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program loan, an initiative created by Congress in early April to help struggling small business owners.
Congress created a $2 trillion stimulus package to assist U.S. residents amid the pandemic. But Biden said 40 percent of stimulus money went to larger entities. “They didn’t need it,” he said, noting that small “micro businesses” got almost no stimulus funding as many lacked prior relationships with banks servicing the loans.
Biden also noted that there was no oversight into the process as Trump had fired Glen Fine, who briefly served as the Inspector General for the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Since April, Trump has fired five Inspectors General.
Biden said that, immediately after taking office, he would establish an oversight committee to investigate how the $2 trillion in emergency aid was spent.
Standing in for Trump at the Town Hall, Calvo excoriated people who rioted and looted following the death of Black Minnesota resident George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer.
“Our AAPI businesses were robbed and badly damaged as a result of that looting. That wasn’t happening from Trump supporters,” he said.
“Trump has been the most unorthodox president I’ve seen in my lifetime, but the results speak for themselves,” said Calvo, citing a pre-COVID robust economy.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, also spoke at the Town Hall, saying she was gratified to see thousands of AAPIS from across the nation joining the briefing. “Not so long ago, we were invisible. And now, we’re the fastest growing voting bloc,” she said, noting also that there are currently 20 AAPI members of Congress, including four Indian Americans in the House and one in the Senate.
“We’ve gone from being marginalized to being the margin of victory,” said Chu.