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2020 Presidential Election Candidates on Immigration

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With the 2020 Presidential Election coming up, Badmus & Associates posts this brief guide to compare the two candidates’ positions on immigration issues of concern such as  USCIS accountability, the legalization of unauthorized immigrants, and legal immigration.

USCIS accountability is extremely important because since President Trump took office, overall average case time processing time has increased by 46% over the past two fiscal years and 91% since fiscal year 2014. The USCIS processed 94% of green cards for family members of US citizens, visas for human trafficking victims, and petitions for immigrant workers more slowly in fiscal year 2018 than fiscal year 2014. The USCIS “net backlog” has exceeded 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of fiscal year 2017. This is more than a 100% increase over one year despite  only a 4% increase in cases.

Given this information, it is clear to see that President Trump has caused more substantial case processing delays and has allowed USCIS to undermine the legal immigration system and focus on immigrantion enforcement instead. Trump has also allowed USCIS to terminate programs that provide vital services and benefits to immigrants and the American public.

Joe Biden calls for a restoration and streamlining of the naturalization process, which would increase the speed with which an immigrant can acquire US citizenship. He also calls for a removal of roadblocks to naturalization that the Trump Administration has put in place, which have caused the drastic increase in the application backlog. However, Biden doesn’t call for a reversal of policies that have damaged efficiency and fairness in case processing. He also doesn’t believe that there needs to be an increase in accountability for USCIS.

The legalization of unauthorized immigrants is something that President Trump and the Republican Party has fought.  Not only has the President tried to attempted to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows individuals who were brought illegally to the US as children receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit, he has also cut temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants.  And, he has  endorsed a reform plan in 2018 that called for significant cuts to the legal immigration system of about half of all visas, including elimination of some family-based visa categories and the diversity visa lottery, and sweeping changes to border and interior enforcements in exchange for legalizing the DACA population.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, plans to modernize the US immigration system and give nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship (which will take many years). He is committed to restoring the DACA program and exploring all legal options to protect families from inhumane separation.  Biden has also planned to commit significant political capital to finally deliver legislative immigration reform to ensure that the US remains open and welcoming to people from every part of the world.

The two candidates appear to be polar opposites on  legal immigration. Joe Biden plans to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration  and promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high US unemployment. Biden also plans to support a program to allow any county or municipal executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas to support the region’s economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify there are available jobs, and that there are no workers to fill them. He will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by county, which create unacceptably long backlogs. Joe Biden has also pledged to support family-based immigration by preserving family unification as a foundation of the US immigration system by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed. He also plans to support legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate.

President Trump, however, wants to restrict legal immigration. The Trump Administration has made policy changes that have reduced the functioning of the legal immigration system and made it more difficult for people to apply for and complete the legal immigration process. He has also supported the RAISE Act that would dramatically reduce family-based immigration, eliminate the Diversity Visa lottery, and restrict refugee admissions.

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