As President Donald Trump’s time in office draws to a close, the alarm bells among immigrant advocates are growing ever louder as they brace for the potentially devastating consequences of his anti-immigrant policies. Trump has been an outspoken opponent of immigration throughout his tenure and has taken a hard line against immigrants seeking to enter the US, both legally and illegally.
One of the most destructive aspects of Trump’s immigration legacy is the separation of families and his near-total suspension of asylum. Trump administration policies have led to significant increases in detention of migrant families, as well as the deployment of the military to guard the U.S.-Mexico border to deter illegal entries. In addition, the Migrant Protection Protocols program, commonly known as “Remain in Mexico,” has forced asylum seekers to wait for their cases to be adjudicated in Mexico, instead of making a reasoned case for asylum in the U.S.
But even with Trump’s departure, the fear of his immigration legacy will linger. Incoming President Joe Biden has promised to undo many of the hardline immigration policies instituted by Trump; however, his ability to do so — and quickly — will be highly limited due to legal and bureaucratic obstacles. Biden has already expressed his intention to give Dreamers, individuals who entered the U.S. illegally as minors, the possibility of a path toward citizenship. While this will certainly be welcomed by many, it is unlikely to address all of the issues associated with the immigrant experience.
As the U.S. prepares to enter the electoral cycle for the 2024 presidential election, the need to address the lasting effects of Trump’s immigration policies will only grow more pressing. There is no doubt that all candidates will be attempting to capture the support of a large Hispanic voting bloc that felt persecuted under the Trump administration. Immigrant rights activists will be watching closely to ensure that their priorities are considered (like permanent legal status for Dreamers) and that no candidate embraces a similar hardline stance on immigration law.
The next election cycle will be a crucial opportunity to address the xenophobia that plagued Trump’s time in office and to reject the idea of a “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to immigration. It will also be a chance to take a comprehensive approach to immigration, making sure that the pathway to legal status is fair, equitable, and truly humane.