Biden's Immigration Balancing Act: Asylum Bans and Citizenship Pathways
Biden's Immigration Balancing Act: Asylum Bans and Citizenship Pathways

As President Joe Biden prepares for a pivotal debate with rival Donald Trump this week, he introduces new immigration and border policies aimed at gaining favor with skeptical voters. In June, Biden announced two significant policy changes: an asylum ban to reduce illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and a broad legalization plan for long-term residents married to U.S. citizens. These policies highlight Biden's attempt to navigate the complex immigration landscape while vying for a second term in the White House.

During Biden's presidency, record numbers of migrants have been apprehended crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, making immigration a top concern for voters ahead of the November 5 election. Facing criticism from Trump, who implemented stringent immigration measures during his presidency, Biden has adopted a tougher stance on border enforcement.

A mid-May Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that registered voters favor Trump over Biden on immigration policy by a 17-point margin. This issue is expected to be a focal point in their upcoming debate in Atlanta. Earlier this year, Biden sought bipartisan support for a Senate border security bill, but the effort was blocked by Republicans following Trump's opposition.

On June 4, Biden introduced a new policy that prevents most migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally from seeking asylum. This executive action aims to curb illegal immigration by quickly deporting migrants to their home countries or back to Mexico, rather than allowing them to stay in the U.S. while awaiting court decisions. Although the number of migrants caught crossing has decreased recently, officials say it is too early to determine if this trend will continue.

Polling data indicates that most Americans support stricter border controls, but the White House also sees an opportunity to engage Latino voters through pro-immigrant actions. A survey by Immigration Hub showed strong voter support, particularly among Latinos, for legalizing spouses of U.S. citizens. Encouraged by this data and pressure from Democrats and advocates, Biden offered a path to citizenship for approximately 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens, most of whom are long-term residents from Mexico.

Matt Barreto, a Biden campaign pollster, explained that Americans distinguish between migrants at the border and long-term residents. They desire both border enforcement and fair treatment for those who have lived and worked in their communities for years. "When it comes up in focus groups and we say, 'What about the person who cleans your house? What about the person who takes care of your children or your elderly mother?'" Barreto said. "They love them."

Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt criticized Biden's new program, citing voter support for deportations. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in May found that over half of U.S. voters backed deporting most or all immigrants in the country illegally. Leavitt emphasized that Trump would initiate the largest deportation operation of illegal immigrants if reelected, while remaining open to skilled, legal migration. Trump suggested granting permanent residence to all foreigners graduating from U.S. colleges, contingent on an aggressive vetting process.

Latino community organizers believe Biden's legalization initiative for spouses could help re-engage Latino voters. Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan organization active in 10 states, including key battlegrounds like Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, plans to highlight Biden's effort in their voter outreach. Hector Sanchez Barba, the group's executive director, called the initiative significant.

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