Report weighs the opportunities for, and obstacles to, achieving fundamental reform of the nation’s immigration system in the new Biden administration

Though the Biden campaign promised in 2020 to reverse course on the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies and to overhaul the existing legislative framework, challenges at many stages of policy implementation will make these goals difficult to achieve. “At the Starting Gate: The Incoming Biden Administration’s Immigration Plans,” published by the Migration Policy Institute, outlines some of Joe Biden’s top immigration priorities, including improving management of the U.S.-Mexico border; strengthening and expanding asylum and refugee resettlement programs; creating a road map to legalize unauthorized immigrants and reform the legal immigration system; refocusing immigration enforcement to national security threats and criminal offenders; ending long-term immigration detention; and working closely with other countries, notably Canada and Central American nations, to manage flows of migrants.  For each of these goals, authors Doris Meissner and Michelle Mittelstadt present potential roadblocks and opportunities. In contrast to the “frenetic” pace of policy changes of the Trump administration, the authors recommend that the Biden administration implement long-term, cross-agency and cross-governmental policies in order to achieve its goal of fashioning a system that treats immigrants as assets rather than threats. The authors conclude, however, that it is unlikely for immigration practices in the U.S. to change drastically during Biden’s term in office given the size and scope of legal changes made to immigration policy by the Trump administration. Additionally, immigration is not a top priority for the incoming Biden administration, given the urgency of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic recession. (Jason Boyle for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)R

At the Starting Gate: the Incoming Biden Administration’s Immigration Plans,

Migration Policy Institute, November 2020, 12 pp.
Authors: Doris Meissner & Michelle Mittelstadt