Remember when immigration was center stage in the 2020 presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump?
Immigration and a number of issues stayed mostly in the shadows during the campaign.
The election was a referendum on Donald Trump and the coronavirus. The election’s aftermath focused on Trump’s claims of voter fraud, the fateful Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the unprecedented D.C. security buildup and a post-term impeachment.
What got lost in the mix during the general election campaign and the lead-up to Biden’s inauguration were key components of his agenda.
Now, we are learning more about Biden’s intentions and details of how he plans to implement them with Democrats in charge of both chambers of Congress. That includes immigration, where President Biden and Democrats will unveil sweeping reforms that include “pathways” to legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The moves could offer legal status to between 11 million (the official estimate) and 20 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
If passed, the reforms are poised to make some monumental changes to the economy and job market as well as the body politic. We all know the U.S. immigration system needs reforms and changes. We all know the economic contributions immigrants make here on the Eastern Shore and across the country.
They are essential.
But we also know how many American workers and households are hurting economically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So many of our neighbors have lost jobs or have seen their pay and hours cut.
Those hurting include immigrant workers already here on the Shore working in the tourism, agriculture and aquaculture industries.
So we have to wonder how legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants will impact jobs and the economy going forward — and what else will be included in the reform plans.
One result could be more immigrants — undocumented and legal — coming to the U.S.
Lawmakers and the administration need to address the impacts immigration changes will have on American workers, jobs and pay levels.
Biden is also pulling back on Trump’s border wall and has granted asylum hearings for thousands of Central Americans and others.
For better or worse, the gates are open.
We hope the new administration keeps up efforts to curtail drug and human trafficking (including kids), much of which flows into the U.S. from Mexico.
We expect to see some details from Biden as well as Democrats in Congress — including our delegations in Maryland and Delaware — on how they will balance more liberal immigration policies with border security (with or without Trump’s wall). They need to tell us how they will deal with migrant caravans from Central America.
Also, we are anxious to see other planks in Biden’s immigration plans. Those may entail guest worker and visa programs for technology, medical, agriculture and other workers.
Silicon Valley and social media giants were big Biden backers over Trump in 2020. They could get some sweetheart immigration reforms in 2021.
We didn’t delve into scores of details of Biden’s plans during the 2020 campaign, but we did delve into Trump’s taxes.
Now, we are on a quick and steep learning curve.
We hope immigration reforms are not about creating more Democratic voters, and that they don’t leave American workers holding the proverbial bag when so many are already hurting.