ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Joe Biden released his formal immigration plan Wednesday expanding upon previously announced broad strokes of his plan along with his plan for sending aid to Central America.
Some of Biden’s biggest proposals from his immigration plan include reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program first created during the Obama Administration, working with Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, and reversing the Trump administration’s asylum policies that restrict the number of migrants seeking humanitarian refuge in the U.S.
The former vice president has faced scrutiny over his record on immigration as a member of the Obama administration, and the nearly three million people who were deported during their eight years in office. Last month in South Carolina, Biden faced an extended protest during a town hall after he refused to commit to ending all deportations as president, instead pledging to prioritize deportations of those in the U.S. illegally who have committed felony crimes.
On Wednesday, Biden was challenged on this point by Isaac Crop, a worker at Disneyland, who pointed out that there were more people deported under the Obama administration’s first three years than the Trump administration. Crop asked Biden what would change if he were president.
“There are more people deported, more people deported during your administration, and we condemn Donald Trump for this same thing. My question for you is if you’re elected president, what are you going to do that it’s different during your presidency?” Crop asked.
Biden in his response and his campaign in a briefing with reporters underscored that the former vice president cares about the impact of such policies on families.
“Number one, we understand the incredible pain of a family being separated or sending [them] back—incredible pain,” Biden told Crop. “And as I said at the outset, it’s all about, in my view, family. And so, for example, there’s no reason why a—someone here on a green card should have to choose.”
Senior advisers to Biden spoke with reporters on a call Wednesday morning and laid out Biden’s ambitious to-do list for his first 100 days in office. Along with reinstating the DACA program, Biden would seek to end Trump’s zero tolerance policy which resulted in family separations along the southern border, decrease restrictions on travel from some of the countries singled out in Trump’s travel ban and address stringent caps on refugees entering the country , and expand opportunities for immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have served in the American military, among other goals.
Biden’s plan also calls for a review of Temporary Protected Status for people whose home countries have been impacted by war and natural disasters that has been rescinded under the Trump administration, which he spoke about on the trail after his proposal’s release.
“We should be engaging and offering our help to organize this hemisphere right now, because you’re going to have the destabilization of countries from Belize to Brazil to Colombia because of the millions of people that are fleeing from Venezuela, because that thug who runs Venezuela. And we should be saying what we tried to do in Europe,” Biden said at an event in Las Vegas Wednesday morning.
“Why in God’s name aren’t we saying, “OK, we’re going to organize the world and the country, the hemisphere to deal with providing for the additional burden it places on those countries and provide for temporary protective status for those Venezuelans who are being persecuted now and are fleeing?” That’s what we should be doing. We should not be ending temporary protected status for people to have to go back to places where they cannot—they cannot go,” Biden continued.
Breaking with some of his 2020 competitors, Biden does not call for restructuring ICE, but rather calls for agency personnel to “abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane treatment.”
Biden’s plan also pledges to invest in technology at the border to improve border security, as well as improving cross-agency collaboration for protecting the border. Biden will also “work with Mexico and Canada as partners — not as adversaries,” if the former vice president wins the 2020 race.
Biden would also budget $4 billion over four years to surge aide to Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) to address the root cause of immigration and increase security protections while reducing poverty and corruptions.
Biden’s campaign did not offer a price tag for his immigration plan, saying rather a lot of the changes the former vice president is proposing would be paid for within the existing Department of Defense budget by ending the cost of long-term detention at the border. However, Biden’s team did specify that the $4 billion in aid to Northern triangle countries would be covered in this way.
Aside from his lengthy to-do list for the first 100 days, Biden’s plan also lays out areas he plans to work with Congress on immigration, including creating the pathway to citizenship for those already here, increasing the number of temporary visas available, and reforming that system.
When pressed on how Biden would get comprehensive immigration legislation passed through Congress, senior advisers cited Biden’s record of working across the aisle and specifically working with Republicans to secure nearly $1 billion in aid to the Northern Triangle countries while vice president.
Several other 2020 candidates have also released immigration policies, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. All three call for restructuring of ICE, creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, and increasing foreign aid to central American countries.
However, unlike other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, Biden does not go as far as to call for making crossing the southern border without documentation a civil violation rather than a criminal violation, which it currently is. Sanders, Castro and Warren have all called for decriminalizing border crossings.
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