Immigration Policy: Brief  # 119

Immigration Policy Recommendations for the Biden Administration

By Kathryn Baron, USRENEW  NEWS Reporter

March 30, 2021

Thus far, 2021 and the Biden Administration have seen a major increase in unaccompanied migrant children crossing the US Southern Border – more than tripled. In the first 3 months of 2021, 4,500 unaccompanied minors were held by CBP and over 9,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services. Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas refers to the phenomena as a challenge – as it is not a new phenomenon or crisis – but rather a pattern. During this fragile transition of power – particularly in the immigration sector – there are a few ways the Biden Administration can seek to strengthen the American immigration system, while dismantling the xenophobic Trump-era policies and still remain realistic in scope.

First,  formally end Title 42, the Trump-era regulation   ordered at the beginning of COVID-19 that effectively turned everyone away due to public health concerns. Within the US health law, under Section 265 is US Code Title 42 which grants the CDC authority to prohibit or prevent individuals from entering the US who may pose a threat of transmitting or introducing communicable diseases. Due to COVID-19 lockdown measures – as well as the inevitable congregate settings migrants often endure after crossing the border which would facilitate mass infection – the CBP was expelling migrants arriving at the border citing Title 42. In agreement with the Government of Mexico, most of these migrants – predominantly from the Northern Triangle – were sent to Mexico.

Second, provide  more funding and resources  for  effective border support. Funding should be used by government agencies (e.e. Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security) and local NGOs such as  to allow for a more seamless immigration process that protects the health and well being of migrant children and processes their cases in a timely manner.

Third,  the  Biden Administration also needs to address the root causes of mass migration.  It needs to work with governments and NGOs in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and promote programs that stem violence and offer would be migrants access to education, health, and employment opportunities in their own countries.

Fourth, immigrant children should be placed in licensed facilities that have high standards of care and  are more child-appropriate than jail-like. Their stays should be as short as possible and there should be a high staff to child ratio at such locations, meaning an increase in the number of social workers, counselors and legal advisors, medical personnel, and translators working at each licensed facility.

Fifth, a mechanism should be implemented to prosecute drug cartels and coyotes who often charge  large sums of money –  to assist migrants in their journeys. Migrants are often physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by the people whom they pay to guide them to the US border. Perhaps representatives from the US and Northern Triangle countries could collaborate on an effort to  arrest and prosecute migrant traffickers.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Through the Department of Homeland Security’s website, this link provides additional information regarding the Obama era program.
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