Guillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Since his January inauguration, President Biden has made numerous reforms to American immigration policy; between the pandemic, worldwide economic upheaval, two hurricanes in Central America, and other global issues, these changes are much-needed. Recently, the Biden administration’s policy of humane-based immigration has allowed a daily average of 4,700 immigrants to cross America’s southern border and gain asylum in the US.
Under the new administration, unaccompanied children crossing the border are allowed to stay in America until the government sees if they have a legal claim to citizenship. This contrasts sharply with Trump’s zero-tolerance campaign policy of sending those children back to their native countries and separating families at the border. Thus, an average of 350 children a day are currently crossing the U.S. border without their parents, over four times the amount from last fall. President Biden is determined to keep immigrant families together, allow millions of undocumented immigrants citizenship, manage the border and it’s surrounding communities safely, halt building the border wall, assist impoverished countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, and tackle many other reforms.
The pandemic has made immigration reform even more challenging, as overflow facilities can now only house a very limited number of immigrants. But the Biden administration recently allowed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reopen shelters to their pre-pandemic state. This is especially for children, families, and legally crossing adults as they wait to find relatives or sponsors because border patrol detains most adults crossing the border illegally. The administration is also dispatching the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to “receive, shelter, and transfer” unaccompanied minors and families to the HHS facilities.
To further control the surge of immigrants overwhelming border facilities, Joe Biden is spending $86 million to house immigrants in hotels near the border. Specifically, the ICE or U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement signed an $86.9 million contract with the San Antonio based migrant protecting non-profit, Endeavors, to supply short-term immigrant shelter and services. This includes individual socially distanced rooms, medical assessments, COVID-19 testing, clothing, meals, legal guidance, and technology access for 1,200 displaced persons and families over six months. These migrant hotels in Arizona and Texas are not a new idea, as both the Trump and Obama administrations have taken similar tactics to control the border influx.
The new administration has received condemnation for this move, especially from Republicans in Congress who say that Biden is attracting the problem by supporting immigration legislation. His campaign originally promised to treat America’s immigration crisis with compassion and humanity rather than brutality.
Many Hingham High students are simultaneously intrigued and saddened by the current border chaos. Sophomore Chris Carr says, “I have heard about the border crisis before but didn’t know how big of a problem it was right now. I understand the money being spent to house immigrants during the pandemic, but there should be more actions in place for long term immigrant shelter.” Similarly, Freshman Ellie Clark comments, “Being compassionate is the first priority. Longer-term, we need to find a sustainable solution.”
It is clear that complex immigration reforms and education need to take place. After all, as the Biden administration claims, “Immigration is essential to who we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for the future.”