A lot has happened on immigration since Biden took office, but the administration’s actions have been far from groundbreaking so far.

Vice President Kamala Harris’s whirlwind swing recently through Guatemala and Mexico will do little to quell concerns in the short run about the latest surge of undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border, but it’s as good an occasion as any to take a measure of President Joe Biden’s emerging immigration doctrine.

A lot has happened on immigration since Biden took office, but the administration’s actions so far have been less about breaking new ground than trying to repair the enormous damage done by Donald Trump, the single most anti-immigrant president in modern history.

Trump’s attitude toward pretty much any immigrant who didn’t spring from “good” Nordic stock — he always seemed especially keen on immigrants from Norway — is that they had to be kept out of our country at all costs, unless they worked at one of his resorts. “If you’re a good worker, papers don’t matter,” a former Trump employee once told Rolling Stone magazine.

The biggest difference between Trump’s immigration agenda and Biden’s is that the former president used immigration policy as a cudgel designed to punish the world’s “huddled masses,” while the Biden White House has assumed an arguably more compassionate and pragmatic stance.

Since taking office, Biden’s policy shifts have included:

  • An end to Trump’s “remain in Mexico” order that forced refugees seeking asylum to stay in Mexico as they awaited their day in federal immigration court, even if it meant they were forced to live in squalid camps or on the streets, often at great personal risk. “The U.S.-based rights group Human Rights First has documented at least 1,544 acts of murder, rape, torture and kidnapping” of refugees ordered to remain in Mexico under the Trump-era policy, according to Al Jazeera.


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