During the Trump administration, the Democrats, including now-President Biden, made a lot of noise about Trump’s harsh immigration policies, especially those that separated families and incarcerated migrant children.
But in fact, not only did many of those policies originate when Biden was Vice President, but they have continued under President Biden as well.
According to recent reports, the Department of Health and Human Services is detaining over 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children — including toddlers — across more than 200 facilities in two dozen states. More than 13,000 of these children are being held in convention centers, work camps, military bases and other emergency sites that are not licensed to care for minors. And in at least five of these facilities, over 1,000 children are being held in extremely crowded conditions during the pandemic. In addition, 20,000 immigrants are currently jailed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — an increase from under 15,000 people at the end of the Trump administration.
And under Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, the Biden administration continues to pursue an agenda that criminalizes immigrants. Mayorkas helped lead the Obama administration’s deportation machine, which deported a record 3 million immigrants, often ripping families apart that had been long established in the U.S. And the Biden administration is continuing to pursue a policy to rapidly militarize Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. In the words of White House press secretary, Jen Psaki; “the objective is to make it more difficult to make the journey, and make crossing the borders more difficult.”
Though Biden’s rhetoric and immigration promises may be a welcomed departure from the flagrant racism of the Trump administration, in reality the immigration policies of the Democrats and Republicans have a lot in common. In the U.S., immigration has always been used like a faucet: politicians turn it on when businesses need cheaper labor, and turn it down when unemployment grows and job opportunities become scarcer. Immigrants are scapegoated as the cause of high unemployment while corporations and their endless pursuit of profits are the real cause. For U.S. capitalism, immigrants are a heavily criminalized labor force — no matter which party happens to be in the White House.