Days ahead of his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden is facing pressure from immigrant rights groups to make good on his campaign promise to stop all deportations for 100 days as soon as he takes office.
On Thursday, two national immigrant rights groups, Make the Road New York and Mijente, plan to launch a digital ad campaign urging Biden to enact a moratorium on deportation, the latest move from advocates as they ramp up pressure on the incoming administration. The nearly two-minute video will feature images of immigrant rights protests over the past four years.
Activists are anxious to see Biden not only undo the Trump administration’s hawkish immigration agenda, but do better than former president Barack Obama, who deported a record number of immigrants during his first term, and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform despite Democratic control of the House and Senate during his first two years.
Thursday’s campaign from Make the Road New York, a nonprofit that provides immigrants with legal advice, and Mijente, a Latino advocacy organization, asks Biden for not only a blanket moratorium on deportations but also a halt on any arrests or apprehensions of immigrants. The groups are also urging the incoming administration to investigate the Department of Homeland Security for what they describe as harmful anti-immigrant policies.
“We were motivated by the commitments by President-elect Joe Biden not just to reverse Trump’s damaging policies, but to adopt a swift moratorium on deportations to stop the bleeding in our communities,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “We’re eager to work with his administration to make that moratorium a reality.”
Biden made the moratorium a part of his policy proposal after reporting from BuzzFeed News showed that he had privately made the commitment to a political advocacy group, Latino Victory Fund. After initially denying that they were supporting a 100-day ban on deportation, Biden’s campaign issued a statement saying they were in fact changing their policy to do so.
The Biden transition team said in a statement that the president-elect made a clear commitment and that he's a man of his word.
But some immigrant rights groups say they’re concerned Biden is already walking back his promises because of recent warnings that reversing Trump's border policies will take time, despite campaign pledges that he would immediately end the Remain in Mexico policy and start the total moratorium on deportations.
President Donald Trump’s policies have led to a growing number of people on the Mexican side of the border who are hoping to seek asylum in the US. The logistics of handling that situation — combined with fear that any policy changes will result in another surge of immigrants at the border — will be a challenge for the next administration.
Democrats have long struggled to push through immigration reforms, fearing electoral backlash as Republicans weaponize the idea of “open borders.” They also now must contend with the aftermath of Trump having inflamed racist fears of immigrants of color, a central message he pushed during his campaign and time in office.
That has energized immigration advocates who are not waiting until Biden takes office to put him on notice. On Tuesday, Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant who has been living in a Colorado church for two years after seeking sanctuary, risked deportation to travel to Biden's transition headquarters to also ask for a deportation moratorium on day one of his administration.
"The incoming Biden administration has a huge responsibility to fulfill to do what past administrations have failed to do," she said.