On Monday, February 22nd, Boston College’s Immigration Law professors held a talk called Unpacking Biden’s Immigration Actions and discussed hopes for the future. The event hosted multiple Boston College Law professors: Daniel Kanstroom, Renna Parikh, Kari Hong, and Mary Holper.
Professor Daniel Kanstroom, the founder of the Boston College Immigration and Asylum clinic, began the panel by providing a brief background on the history of immigration policy in the United States.
During the Clinton administration, Professor Kantsroom wrote, “We are still in the midst of a large-scale decades-long deportation experiment.”
Thirty years later and that statement still rings true. Our country’s economy is deeply reliant on the labor of undocumented workers despite a long history of enacting policies to punish illegal immigrants.
For over thirty years, the United States has been immersed in a system which Kanstroom calls “the deportation nation.”
Although the Obama administration introduced the progressive Dream Act, it left much of the system untouched. President Obama’s executive-action approach only accomplished minor improvements in a system that needs major reconstruction. Under President Trump, deportations and detentions of those incarcerated for minor crimes only increased. The Trump administration took advantage of a system that was already broken.
Kanstroom concluded, “Our system has created many problems it was reportedly built to solve.”
Professor Reena Parikh, Assistant Clinical Professor at BC Law, provided an in-depth analysis of the Biden administration's approach to separating families at the border.
At the root of the problem is a US law which declares, “Any non-citizen that centers or attempts to enter the US without proper protocol is committing a federal crime.”
This law requires all federal prosecutors to charge each individual who appears in front of them without discretion. Additionally, if parents and children enter the United States without inspection, this law allows prosecutors to separate families without hope of a reunion.
According to Parikh, “the plan was to separate families as a so-called ‘deterrent’ to immigration.”
On January 26, 2021, the acting Attorney General delivered a memo to all federal prosecutors to rescind the non-discretionary policy that perpetuated family separation.
Parikh explained, “That memo does not get rid of zero-tolerance, it just gives back discretion to federal prosecutors. But, that was available during the Obama Administration and families were still separated.”
Professor Kari Hong, an expert in immigration law, joined the conversation with a hopeful tone despite Parikh and Kanstroom’s warnings about America’s history of discriminatory immigration policies.
Hong began by saying, “This bill is unbelievable. If we get any of this bill I will be jumping for joy.”
Hong is excited because the bill provides a clear path to citizenship, especially for those seeking asylum. President Trump instituted multiple bans for asylum seekers by specifically targeted immigrants from Central and South America.
If asylum seekers entered the United States, “they had to sit in squalor conditions in the midst of a pandemic and in the midst of a lot of violence in order to wait their turn” according to Professor Mary Holper, Director of the Immigration Clinic at BC Law.
President Biden’s Immigration Plan is a preliminary attempt to deconstruct Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration policies. For example, President Biden proposed capping the number of asylum seekers at 62,000 rather than the 15,000 limit imposed by President Trump.
The panel concluded with a question from a student, Steve Brenner. Brenner asked, “Is anyone excited about these Biden appointments or would you like to see anyone specifically appointed?”
In order for the Biden Administration to deconstruct President Trump’s discriminatory immigration policies, President Biden must appoint leadership with experience. Professor Parikh is specifically excited about the Chief Counsel whereas Professor Holper hopes the administration will begin hiring more immigration judges.
Professor Kanstroom ironically pointed out, “One of the good things about the Trump Administration was massive incompetency. It took three times to pass something through the courts and ultimately led federal judges to strike it down because it made no sense.”
The lawyers ended the panel by providing further resources for tracking the Biden Administration’s immigration actions. If you are interested in reading more, you can check out the following websites: https://immpolicytracking.org/home/, aila.org, and crimmigration.com.