One-hundred days ago this week, President Joe Biden entered the White House with big promises to undo Donald Trump’s anti-immigration legacy, and a penful of signatures to get the job done.
Shortly after cleaning crews finished delousing the Oval Office, Biden settled in behind the Resolute desk to autograph a stack of presidential proclamations, executive orders, and legislative initiatives intended to reassert the United States’ position as a “country of immigrants.”
In a matter of minutes Biden signed:
- A bill to modernize the immigration system and offer a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, TPS holders, and qualifying immigrant farmworkers.
- A memorandum to protect and fortify DACA.
- A proclamation ending Trump’s so-called “Muslim Ban.”
- A proclamation to terminate the national emergency on the southern border and halt construction of the border wall.
That’s not too shabby for the first afternoon on the job.
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Over the next several weeks Biden pressed his ballpoint pen to new piles of paper to:
- Establish a government task force to reunite families separated by the Trump administration.
- End the MPP, or the “Remain in Mexico” program, and restore normal asylum procedures.
- Extend TPS status to Venezuelans
For those keeping score at home, that’s seven immigration campaign promises kept in seven weeks. But that’s when Biden’s ink ran dry. And over the second 50 days, the cheers turned to sighs. Now, many immigration activists are hoping Biden will rekindle that early fire and deliver on his bold promises — before they die on paper.
“I'm just really tired, honestly, of false promises that something will happen and something will change permanently. And it's not happening. I don't think that President Biden has done enough,” Susie Lujano, a DACA recipient from Houston told Real America with Jorge Ramos during an immigrant rights march in Washington, D.C., prior to President Biden’s address to congress. “I think that he has failed at a lot of the promises that he made during his presidential campaign. A lot of the immigrant community helped to get him to the presidency.”
That’s a message repeated by many activists who claim Biden has mistaken penmanship for advocacy. True leadership, they say, means fighting for what you’ve authored, because signatures alone won’t get the job done.
Others are more critical still. They think Biden is complacent about Trump’s worst policies, especially when it comes to “Title 42” expulsions.
For those unfamiliar with obscure 1940s public health code relating to the spread of communicable disease, Title 42 is a dusty provision that was exhumed by the Trump administration to shut the border under the pretext of preventing Coronavirus. Nevermind that Trump downplayed the seriousness of Covid-19 domestically, the vague threat of the novel virus was all his government needed to further their ideological goal of shutting the border to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Title 42 is perhaps the most racist border policy enacted by the Trump administration. It was far more effective than the border wall. Yet Biden, who was quick to stop construction on the wall, has refused to cancel Title 42. Instead, his administration is contorting itself into embarrassing positions to defend its continuance.
“We consider it a policy that was put in place that we’ve continued to implement because we are still in the middle of global pandemic,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week.
Title 42 isn’t Biden’s only sin of omission. The president has failed to raise the refugee cap, which remains at an appallingly historic low of 15,000 set by Trump (by point of comparison, that’s almost six times lower than it was during the last year of the Obama-Biden administration). And despite Biden trying to halt deportation flights several months ago, ICE Air continues to shuttle immigrants out of the country. in the case of Haiti, deportation runs have actually increased, totaling 30 flights in the past 100 days, according to the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
At the end of 100 days, no immigration activist can say they are unhappy to see Trump retired to a sad life of Floridian exile at Mar-a-Lago. But everyone wants to see Biden try harder. And they aren’t going to let their foot off the gas until he delivers on the promises that helped put him in the White House.
Says one activist, “We have to continue to organize to make sure that the congress acts to provide a pathway to citizenship to all immigrants. We want to make sure this law gets passed and President Biden gets all of us to the finish line.”