As Democratic lawmakers unveiled their legislative proposal on Thursday, they presented it as a deliberate rejection of the Trump administration’s approach. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the bill’s main sponsors, said that by sending Biden to the White House, the Americans had effectively instructed Congress to “fix our immigration system, which is the cornerstone of Trump’s hate horror show ”.
The bill would pave the way for citizenship for almost all undocumented immigrants living in the United States, increase legal immigration, and speed up the screening of asylum seekers. It would also take measures to secure the country’s borders and entry points, while investing $ 4 billion in the economies of Central American countries to reduce incentives to emigrate. And that would remove the word “foreign” from federal law in favor of “non-citizen”.
To say that this represents a departure from previous approaches to immigration reform would be an understatement. The last time Congress passed major reform was in 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed a law prohibiting employers from hiring undocumented immigrants.
President George W. Bush subsequently placed a center-right plan for comprehensive reform at the heart of his appeal to Hispanic voters. He won 44% of the Latin American vote in the 2004 election, according to exit polls – unusually high for a Republican candidate – but the reform was never passed.
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His successor, Barack Obama, proposed an immigration bill that balanced enforcement measures with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants, but this never became a top priority and has dark. This has left many immigration advocates disappointed – and, in some cases, suspicious of Biden, the former vice president of Obama.
Under Obama, the downward trend in the overall number of deportations continued from previous administrations, and he emphasized the deportation of people with criminal records. But ultimately, he deported more than five million people, while strengthening the role of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency installed under Bush.
Trump rose to the Republican nomination and then to the presidency, in part thanks to his opposition to immigration and the racial overtones it allowed him to ring. His draconian border policies may have been the defining issue of his presidency and helped rally his base around his conservative populism.