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What the Biden Inauguration Means for Immigrants

Jesus is an undoc student based in California. He's spent more than a year and a half engaging in migrant rights and is against the camps.


Some Background

Disclaimer(s): This article has been written on the evening of January 20th, 2021 and things may change between the time of the writing of this article and the time in which it is being read. Due to the limited time in writing this, I do not claim to represent the entire immigrant community, as it is not a monolith. This is instead from my own perspective, which is shared by many around me.

As the sun sets of Washington DC, United Statians across the country and people all over the world witness a transfer of power like no other in the country’s history. For those who were privileged enough to not notice or experience it before, the outgoing administration and its four-year rule laid bare the inextricable injustices ingrained within the United States government and the institutions it is composed of.

While this is true of the many settler-colonial states of the Americas, the United States has a relatively long history of oppressing the indigenous peoples of its host continent and those of non-European descent. This past administration is one of the few within the last few decades that has explicitly, without euphemisms or innuendos, spread rhetoric of open hate and violence toward BIPOC and POC at large.

Though one can argue (and win) that past administrations like the Obama or Bush administrations imposed repressive policies that hurt the working class and attacked non-white immigrants, the Trump administration most definitely wore his hate on his sleeve. As an undocumented student living in the United States, the actions of this now past administration affected me deeply, as I am sure it has impacted my Black and Indigenous siblings.

One thing I have learned as I have grown during these past four years is that regardless of which party or administration is in power, there will always be a class struggle and a struggle between Whites holding onto unmerited power and the rest of the country trying to redistribute it. The incoming Biden administration is already being widely celebrated despite only being hours into office on the sole un-achievement of not being the Trump administration.

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Joseph Biden and the Democratic Party

The last four years of “Orange-Man-Bad” politics have severely damaged the centrist Democratic Party base’s ability to critically assess and respond to the Biden administration, or any democratic administration in general. Seeing the extremely uncaring attitude the majority of the country is returning to is highly concerning.

Biden has already signed an order directing Congress to look into giving DREAMers permanent status and a pathway to citizenship in due time, just hours into his presidency. Though this may seem like a huge win, the immigrant community understands that this is just a quick way to “wash his hands” as we say in Spanish. Past administrations have granted undocumented immigrants permanent residency before, and even Obama (who didn’t act until the 11th hour of his second term) enacted more immediate and impacting orders affecting DREAMers.

We must also keep in mind that now-President Biden is the same then-Vice President Biden who under the Obama administration partook in the deportation of almost 3 million undocumented immigrants. Let’s also not forget that while Trump implemented a policy of family separation and most famously keeping children in cages, these cages were built in 2014 by the Obama administration. Keeping the current administration honest and accountable will take the same amount of work and dedication many gave to the last. While almost everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their viewpoints and how they shift throughout time, past actions come into play.

Quick note on the nomenclature of DREAMers:

The DREAM Act is an act that failed to pass repeatedly, most recently in the form of HR-6 is a piece of legislation that has not yet passed in the Senate and therefore nobody is a DREAMer yet. Colloquially, however, DREAMer is a term referring to those who qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a temporary immigration status protecting qualifying undocumented people from deportation and allowing them to work legally within the country.

What Does this Mean for Immigrants?

The previously mentioned facts are part of the reason why much of the immigrant community remains weary. We are used to empty promises, tokenization, and band aids. The undocumented community faces urgent risk at all times, due to the fact that we are very vulnerable and exposed in our everyday lives. As I have said many times before in other contexts, it is hard for an undocumented person to know whether they will return home at the end of the day, or whether their home will be raided in the middle of the night. The same is true for mixed status families, where documented children fear not finding their parents at home when they get back from school.

This is what the Biden Inauguration means for immigrants: A long, arduous fight to secure the same rights our siblings born on this side of the line get at birth… and more.

© 2021 Jesus Villalba Gastelum

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