Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced Dec. 8 that she would overhaul the U.S. immigration system within 100 days after taking office.
In a speech at the virtual National Immigration Integration Conference, organized by the National Partnership for New Americans, the Indian American politician vowed that the new Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration would send a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress within the first 100 days, reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and repeal the Muslim ban.
She lambasted the Trump administration for its hard-nosed approach to both legal and undocumented immigration. “These last four years have been heartbreaking and extremely difficult. Children have been separated from their families. Those fleeing persecution have been denied the ability to apply for refuge.”
“Even immigrants who have been here for a long time are subject to attack and abuse,” said Harris.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began its assault on the U.S., it brought with it an alarming uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans fueled by Trump himself who called it the “China virus” and “Kung Flu.” In late August, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council — A3PCON — said it had recorded more than 2,583 attacks and incidences of discrimination against Asian Americans on its portal stopaapihate.org, which allows people to self report incidents in one of several Asian American languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu.
Since 2017, the Trump Administration has made 400 policy changes detrimental to immigrants, with 63 fresh blows meted out amid the COVID-19 pandemic, noted the Migration Policy Institute in a report released July 31. The administration’s battle against immigration — both legal and undocumented — is unprecedented, said MPI policy analyst Sarah Pierce at an Aug. 7 briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services.
“Many of the changes reflect the administration’s really strong knowledge of immigration law and regulations, and their willingness to enforce things that have been on the books for years, but have never been implemented,” said Pierce.
But the courts have also pushed back. On Dec. 5, New York District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to end the DACA program, ruling that the Department of Homeland Security must immediately start accepting applications from first-time DACA applicants. An earlier court ruling had allowed only renewals.
The courts have also blocked implementation of the controversial public charge rule, which would have imposed a “wealth tax” on people seeking to enter the U.S., and deny permanent residency to any immigrant who had availed of public benefits, including federally subsidized housing or food stamps.
But in several last-ditch attempts to retain his legacy, President Donald Trump’s administration has also pushed back. Earlier this year, Trump issued a ban on H-1B workers — largely from India — from entering the country, stating that millions of Americans rendered jobless by the pandemic should not have to compete with foreign workers. But Northern California U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled against the ban Dec. 1, saying the Labor Department had failed to prove why such a ban was necessary.
The Trump administration also finalized a regulation Dec. 10 that the American Immigration Lawyers Association characterized as “the death of the asylum system.”
According to AILA, the new regulation, which is set to go into effect Jan 11, would “gut the U.S. asylum system, making protection from persecution impossible for almost everyone.”
The regulation raises additional obstacles to passing a preliminary screening at the border, eliminates multiple long-established grounds for granting asylum, and allows immigration judges to deny people their day in court by rejecting applications without a hearing. The regulation denies protection to nearly all who pass through more than one country on their way to the U.S.
Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said in a press statement: “For generations, the United States has been a beacon of hope for those in need of protection. This new rule breaks that tradition.”
“By choosing to move forward with this regulation, the administration is making clear that deterrence through cruelty is the point until the bitter end. In order to remain a society that protects the most vulnerable, the Biden-Harris administration must take steps to unwind this draconian rule immediately after assuming office.”
Speaking at the virtual National Immigration Integration Conference, Harris said: “Joe Biden and I will attempt to right the wrongs of the past four years and restore our values of America as a nation that welcomes immigrants.”
She lauded immigrants for being on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, as essential health care workers. “They have helped to keep our economy going through this crisis,” she said.
Harris vowed to immediately repeal “harmful, indiscriminate enforcement policies like the Muslim ban.”
“We can deliver the change we need, and usher in a better immigration system in a just and equitable America.”
“Every human being must be treated with dignity and respect. We must stand up for those who must be seen,” said Harris.