President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly working on a group of executive orders that would reverse several controversial Trump administration policies once he takes office on January 20. Immigration policy would be the most dramatic and immediate reversal.
According to a Washington Post report, Biden plans to take immediate action on policies about climate change, immigration, and public health. On all three counts, the president-elect would effectively implement policies that are the opposites of President Donald Trump’s.
On immigration, Biden will reportedly repeal the travel ban that includes many Muslim countries and reinstate the “DREAMers” program, which allowed children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.
Without the Senate, Biden will depend on executive action.
Biden’s executive orders are likely to take center stage if Democrats fail to sweep two Senate run-offs in Georgia in early January that will likely determine which party controls the chamber. With Republicans appearing likely to win the outstanding Senate races in Alaska and North Carolina, Democratic wins in Georgia would give each party 50 senators, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote.
Even if Democrats have a majority in the upper chamber, they may find their agenda stunted by Sen. Mitch McConnell. He, as a minority leader, managed to derail Obama administration initiatives. Should McConnell take a similar approach, Biden will likely see little progress on any legislative agenda.
Biden has faced an uncooperative Republican Party before. He has touted his work as vice president to find common ground with Republicans. However, former President Barack Obama was ultimately similarly pushed to govern by executive action, a strategy that was often met with outsize conservative reactions accusing the president of being a dictator.
The president-elect’s broader immigration plans represent a complete reversal of the Trump administration’s policies over the past several years. He wants to expand opportunities for legal immigration, including family and work-based visas and access to humanitarian visa programs.
Biden also has vowed to prioritize the reunification of many families still separated under the Trump administration’s now-defunct “zero-tolerance” policy — which led to the separation and detention of more than 2,800 migrant families and children in 2018.
Biden has faced criticism for the number of deportations under the Obama administration, which deported 3 million undocumented immigrants over eight years. (The Trump administration has deported fewer than 1 million over the last three fiscal years.)
While Biden would continue the Obama administration’s enforcement focus on those who pose threats to public safety and national security, he also said the Obama administration waited too long to overhaul the immigration system. He said he would make it one of his priorities as president.
Biden also said he would take on the heavy lift of pushing comprehensive immigration reform through Congress — a feat not accomplished since 1986 — and create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in his first 100 days. During the 2008 campaign, Obama also promised to push for an immigration reform bill in his first year, but it never came to pass.
Biden has pledged to end workplace enforcement raids as well. Rules implemented by the Trump administration, such as “public charge,” which allows federal immigration authorities to deny green cards to legal immigrants if they’ve used certain public benefits, could also be undone, but that would require invoking the regulatory process, which would take longer.
Also, Biden said he would restore the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants deportation relief and work permits to those brought illegally to the U.S. as children. The Trump administration tried to end the program, but the Supreme Court blocked that effort.