For Democrats, Immigration Is a Top Election Priority

July 17, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have said immigration issues are “first up” if November goes their way, as the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommended measures on DACA and work visas.  

The Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force document contains several sweeping immigration reform proposals.  Among them: 

  • Reforming temporary work visas, such as H-1Bs, “including by establishing a need- and wage-based allocation process, as well as enforcement mechanisms to ensure they align with labor market needs and do not undermine wages or displace workers.”

  • Maintaining the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and supporting the American Dream and Promise Act, which would enshrine DACA into law and provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

  • Taking “urgent action to undo the Trump Administration’s unilateral executive orders on immigration, including abuses implemented during the pandemic.” These would likely include the immigration and work visa bans.

  • Undoing the “public charge” regulations that went into effect in February, and which more stringently defines who is considered likely to receive public assistance and is therefore inadmissible to the U.S.

  • Providing immigrants whistleblower protections and ensuring that “all workers [including immigrants] have access to a fair grievance process, can collectively bargain, and are fully protected if unfairly terminated.” 

DACA likely first priority:  Biden has said that, if elected, “on day one” he will “send a bill to Congress that creates a clear road map to citizenship for Dreamers and 11 million undocumented people who are already strengthening our nation.”

Meanwhile, President Trump has also promised action on DACA.  In June, the Supreme Court sent the Trump administration back to square one in its efforts to end the DACA program.  Within a day, President Trump promised to begin a new process ending DACA.  However, a few days after the Biden-Sanders plan was released, President Trump said that sometime in the next month there will be a measure that will provide merit-based immigration and give Dreamers a path to citizenship.  

Current status:  DACA has been fully restored by a federal judge, giving DACA-eligible individuals the opportunity to apply. 

Looking ahead:  Congress has little time to pass any immigration bill this year, casting doubt on whether President Trump’s plan to accomplish a victory on DACA has legs.  The Biden-Sanders proposal largely relies on Congressional action as well.  If Democrats can win the White House and the Senate, and especially if they can get rid of the filibuster, it seems likely a DACA measure would pass.