Joe Biden Unveils Immigration Platform, Acknowledges ‘Pain’ Of Deportations During Obama Era

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden released his immigration plan Wednesday, pledging to dismantle a number of the Trump administration’s key immigration policies. 
  • Biden called for an end to Remain in Mexico, reinstatement of DACA, and raising the refugee cap to nearly seven times the current limit. 
  • Unlike his progressive rivals, Biden did not call for a ban on deportations, or decriminalization of illegal immigration, and he doesn’t want to see DHS fundamentally changed. 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden published a sweeping immigration plan that called for an overhaul of the Trump administration’s agenda, but it remained largely moderate compared to his progressive contenders.

Biden’s campaign on Wednesday published a massive, nearly 6,700-word plan for how the Democratic candidate would manage immigration if elected president of the United States. While the former vice president pledged to undo a number of President Donald Trump’s most notable programs and acknowledged criticism of deportations that took place during his own administration, Biden’s platform was still reflective of his moderate stance on the issue of immigration.

Early on in the outline, Biden appeared to take a left turn by openly acknowledging the “pain” caused by deportations that took place during the Obama administration.

“Joe Biden understands the pain felt by every family across the U.S. that has had a loved one removed from the country, including under the Obama-Biden Administration, and he believes we must do better to uphold our laws humanely and preserve the dignity of immigrant families, refugees, and asylum-seekers,” the announcement said.

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden arrives at a campaign stop on Dec. 2, 2019 in Emmetsburg, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden arrives at a campaign stop on Dec. 2, 2019 in Emmetsburg, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Since the launch of his campaign, Biden has been dogged by immigration activists who have criticized him for the record-high number of deportations — three million — that took place during the eight years of the Obama-Biden era. However, he has remained largely defiant about the statistic, and went so far as to say he had “nothing” to apologize for when asked by a Telemundo reporter earlier this month.

The former vice president announced on Wednesday he would mostly unwind the Trump administration’s immigration agenda. Namely, he pledged to end Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as Remain in Mexico, a program that mandates asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases are processed in the U.S. immigration court system. He also said he would reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and abolish for-profit detention centers.

The former vice president said he would raise the refugee cap nearly sevenfold — increasing the current cap of 18,000 to 125,000.

“Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants. It’s wrong, and it stops when Joe Biden is elected president,” the announcement said, referring to Trump’s immigration agenda as a “moral failing and a national shame.”

However, what was not addressed in the plan was also telling.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent is seen at the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission

A U.S. Border Patrol agent is seen at the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, U.S., July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The leading Democratic candidate did not say he would put a moratorium on all deportations if elected president, nor did he say he would decriminalize illegal immigration. The omissions were notable as they are two positions becoming increasingly popular among his party’s base, and were recently adopted by both Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — the progressive darlings of the Democratic presidential field.

And unlike Sanders’ recent immigration platform unveiling, Biden did not call for an overhaul of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The two agencies under DHS that mostly deal with immigration enforcement — Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — would not be fundamentally reworked under a Biden administration, but he did say that the two agencies would “abide by professional standards” and he would hold those accountable for “inhumane” treatment. (RELATED: Clinton-Appointed Judge Blocks Billions In Funding For Trump’s Border Wall)

Biden also said he would help address the border crisis by hiring more judges and court staff, and called for an investment of $4 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds into Central America to address the root causes of illegal migration.

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