Biden and Immigration, Again

Terry Schwadron
4 min readJun 19, 2024

Terry H, Schwadron

June 19, 2024

After moving to order a crackdown on migrants on the border, Joe Biden has now tacked with a program to ease citizenship efforts for those migrants married to U.S. citizens, regardless of documentation status and easing work permits for Dreamers.

Naturally, the expected political blowback awaits, as well as the inevitable court challenge — despite the refusal of opponents in Congress to take up legislation to address immigration in any meaningful way.

If you’re scoring this play, it’s a president during an election year acting alone out of what he sees as a forced hand on immigration, and a chance to underscore that he can find humanitarian answers among a sea of bristling political hostility over immigration policies.

Expect Donald Trump to trash it as a means for some arriving illegally to avoid deportation and underscoring his criticisms of Biden as weak on migrants, and for Republicans more generally to see this step as a sop to progressives.

The move to ease official standing for college-graduating Dreamers came as support for that programs has ebbed, It was part of a bold attempt to say immigration policy can address border concerns and still lead to citizenship,

In real life, Biden’s announcement — with some details yet to emerge — reflects a curious stamp of approval for citizenship paths already existent, though delayed. As described, the new policy — which presumably could be overturned by a replacement president — could affect upward of 500,000 families who have been in the United States for 10 years married to American citizens, have clean criminal records. Under current law, those individuals already could apply for naturalization but would have been forced to return to their homeland before a green card could be issued.

So, on one level, this move just addresses the delayed process for recognizing marriage to U.S. citizens as helpful toward citizenship — as well as possibly helping him in battleground states like Nevada and Arizona.

On the other, of course, the immigration issue is emotionally and politically incendiary, and there is no immediate telling what any pushback will mean.

The Systems Don’t Work

Our own daughter-in-law remains a Spanish immigrant, here legally, and, while able to work, still awaits full naturalization, with promises to review long, detailed forms only after months and years. Other such cases with which we are familiar are similar. The open door we say we allow for perfectly legal immigration is littered with delay towards allowing jobs and stability.

By contrast, residency in Europe for one year after marriage would produce automatic naturalization for the spouse.

So, okay, there are snags and obstacles throughout even the cleanest immigration cases are littered with problems.

But add in the imagery and demagoguery of illegal border crossings, and the hairs of the back of American heads rise instantly and with a good mix of racial and class fears and anti-migrant ardor.

Just two weeks ago, Biden announced a crackdown that suspended longtime guarantees that give anyone who steps onto U.S. soil the right to seek asylum here. Biden has been criticized for reneging on campaign promises to enact a more humane approach to immigrants than Trump did, but the issues are front and center in the campaign.

Every day we hear of an isolated crime, for example, that blows into huge proportion because the person arrested crossed the border illegally. Every day we’re hearing city mayors decrying the number of arriving migrants who cannot legally work and need shelter and medical care. Every day the presidential campaign airwaves are filled with ugly images of hordes of migrants invading the country to take away jobs and political sway, as if non-citizen migrants can legally vote.

It’s all repackaged in the form of political difference, with Biden labeled as hapless and even cooperative with massive illegal crossings for some unknown partisan advantage.

Spur to Consider Broader Policy

Whatever else happens on Election Day in November, perhaps a newly elected Congress can finally decide to tackle immigration in a comprehensive manner — seeing well past the law enforcement issues on the border to what we want to achieve and resizing the U.S. efforts on several fronts to handle the numbers of people who want entry to America.

The case is clear that immigration represents a variety of issues.

There is an economic argument for jobs and workers that is at war with an attitude of closing borders altogether. There are morality and fairness issues involving the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) individuals here for their whole lives. There are the open questions of how an asylum system should work, and how to staff it so we are not releasing migrants awaiting individual court decisions here for years without an ability to work before hearing whether they face deportation.

Maybe it’s only a minority opinion at this point, but I see Biden’s move as a practical one rather than a broad statement of policy. With upwards of 11 million or more undocumented migrants working a gray economic livelihood in hiding, anything that can speed resolution — citizenship or deportation — sounds like it should at least start attacking the issues on the edges.