When the American people put their trust in President Joe Biden, they were promised the creation of a “fair and humane immigration system.”
The treatment of immigrants since Biden’s inauguration has been the opposite.
As former President Donald Trump’s time in office came to an end, many Americans expected our immigration system to be rehabilitated from its time of family separations and abusive treatment at the border. Yet, over a month into the Biden presidency, very little has changed.
Families continue to be separated, children continue to be held in border shelters and Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to carry out deportations. Those at risk cannot rely on Biden to protect them — instead, our support should go to organizations working to provide direct aid to immigrants and children held in shelters. These groups, many of which operate in the Los Angeles area like the Central American Resource Center of Los Angeles and Al Otro Lado, have long-standing histories of delivering for their communities and are most equipped to provide the relief that immigrants and migrants are in desperate need of.
Despite Biden’s move to pause deportations for 100 days, ICE has continued to schedule and carry out deportations as usual. Hundreds have been deported since Biden’s inauguration, including over 20 children and babies.
An agency that has received over 1,000 sexual abuse complaints and has broken laws in their pursuits of immigrants, ICE continues to be empowered under Biden’s administration. The border agency has been advised to focus on deporting those who pose a threat to national security, allowing them to decide who is a threat and act accordingly. At the United States-Mexico border, over 3,500 children await placement in shelters run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency that has subjected children to disease, hunger and overcrowding in its detention centers.
Many Democrats, including Biden, rightly condemned the practice of holding children in unregulated border shelters, often referred to as “cages.” Yet, conditions have barely improved since Trump’s exit from office. More children are being held than ever before, having to sleep on concrete floors in the very same crammed cells used under Trump.
Ideally, Biden could begin hitting his marks with increased advocacy, but we would be ill-informed to expect this. This can be attributed in part to Biden’s priorities. COVID-19, climate, racial equity, economy and health care are all listed before immigration respectively on the administration’s list of priorities, hinting that immigration is not their main focus.
This possibility becomes even less likely when we recognize that Biden’s missteps on immigration policy thus far are not the result of a lack of advocacy. Biden’s initial promises were largely the product of activism which led to the creation of a Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, meant to bridge the divide between supporters of the president and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.
Many of the promises made in the task force, such as the discontinuation of unregulated detention centers, have already been broken. When pressed, the Biden administration refused to elaborate on when they will begin to live up to the standards set for themselves. The administration, which refuses to refer to the state of affairs as a “crisis,” has admitted to not having enough sponsors ready for children nor enough shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Acknowledging this significantly dims the prospect that things could turn around with additional advocacy. Regardless of the reasoning behind Biden’s administrative actions thus far, they send a clear message: We can’t rely on the president to protect migrants and immigrants.
Helping to safeguard immigrants and migrant children will mean donating to organizations and funds that won’t yield to repressive border agencies. Rather than being subject to the political whims of voters, immigration organizations are permanently embedded in their communities and dedicated to helping others, free of any politicized intentions. Many of these groups do vital work near the 5Cs and within LA County, where there’s a massive immigrant population.
Organizations working within LA County include CARECEN, a non-profit providing legal representation for immigrants, including unaccompanied minors, and Al Otro Lado, an organization providing aid to migrants at the border along with advocacy to dismantle America’s oppressive immigration system.
Providing relief to immigrants and migrants will mean looking toward organizations like these, who choose to promote peace and liberation rather than the violence and injustice levied by the American immigration system. Offering legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation, reuniting families that were separated by border officers and expanding access to healthcare for migrants are just some of the ways these groups make a material difference. To help support these organizations and their vital work, you can donate here and here.
Nicholas Black PO ’24 is from Rochester, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @nickblack0101, where he will someday tweet.