Joe Biden

President of the United States

Joe Biden, the former vice president serving under President Barack Obama and a former longtime U.S. senator, is the Democratic president of the United States.

The quintessential establishment politician, Biden is an avowed moderate who touts his centrist credentials as an asset in reaching across the aisle to work successfully with Republican lawmakers. On matters of immigration policy, Biden is in fact to the right of his former rivals for the Democratic nomination for president: He has stood strong on the Obama administration’s record number of deportations, he refused to join his fellow Democratic presidential candidates in supporting a repeal of the statute that criminalizes border crossings, and during the Trump presidency he said that he would give Trump a wall (if it added to national security) in exchange for saving DACA.

A U.S. senator from the state of Delaware from 1973 until he assumed the vice presidency in 2009, Biden has a long record on immigration and immigration-related policy.

He was an early and strong supporter of NAFTA, saying he wanted to prioritize “fair trade over free trade.” While Biden has hedged on his support of the agreement more recently — “I think that back in the time during the Clinton administration, it made sense at the moment” — he has not changed his position on the matter. Biden has, however, been critical of USMCA, the revised NAFTA agreement negotiated by the Trump administration, saying that it doesn’t do enough to ensure that “protections for the rights of our workers are enforced.”

As a senator, Biden voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which authorized and funded construction of nearly 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border and has remained an advocate for strong border security.

And during his 2008 run for the Democratic nomination for president, he drew attention for calling for a ban of sanctuary cities. The issue has come up frequently for Biden because the sanctuary cities movement began as a response to three million people being deported during the Obama administration. While he has more recently criticized former President Trump’s crackdown on sanctuary cities, he has not indicated that his opposition to sanctuary cities has changed.

Despite his mixed record on immigration, ahead of his presidential inauguration Biden announced a sweeping immigration proposal to Congress that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. But the bill has failed to take off, eclipsed by an influx of migrants on the southern border, including a record number of unaccompanied minors. With his approval ratings on immigration low, Biden has worked to redirect focus to his efforts to address the root causes of migration from Central America and his executive actions undoing Trump’s landmark immigration policies.



  • Border Security

    Biden voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which provided funding for increased border security, including the construction of new fencing. The plan he released as a 2020 presidential candidate calls for improved technology at and between ports of entry, including cameras, sensors, large-scale x-ray machines, and fixed towers.

  • Border Wall

    While he was critical of former President Trump’s rhetoric on building a wall, Biden voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which erected 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The immigration plan he released as a 2020 presidential candidate calls for “ending the so-called national emergency that siphons federal dollars from the Department of Defense to build a wall,” saying “a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels seeking to exploit our borders.” On his first day as president, Biden signed an executive order halting wall construction and launching "a close review" of the legality of the Trump administration's effort to divert federal money to fund a wall. In April of 2021, Biden cancelled all military funding that had been diverted to border wall construction.

  • Detention

    While he voted for the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which provided increased funding for the incarceration of undocumented immigrants, Biden more recently has said he supports ending immigrant detention: “Close them down,” he said at a South Carolina town hall in August 2019, “we don’t need them.” His administration has expanded alternatives to detention such as electronic monitoring and community-based case management programs.

  • Immigration Courts

    Biden proposes doubling the number of immigration judges, court staff, and interpreters to support timely and fair adjudication of asylum and other immigration cases. As of the beginning of 2020, there is a backlog of one million immigration cases, resulting in prolonged detentions and applicants waiting years for their cases to be heard.

  • Undocumented Population

    Biden has proposed legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and has vowed to prioritize deportations to focus only on those who have committed a felony or other serious crime.

  • ICE

    Biden supports the independent oversight of ICE and an expansion of training and transparency, and pushes back strongly on the proposal to dismantle the agency altogether.

  • DACA

    Biden supports the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship for everyone enrolled in the DACA program. On his first day as president, Biden signed an executive order bolstering DACA.

  • Asylum & Refugees

    The Biden administration’s “Interim Final Rule” allows asylum officers to make final asylum decisions in expedited removal cases where applicants have a strong claim to protection, rather than referring all cases to the backlogged immigration court system. Until December 2022, Biden kept the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy in place, expelling many migrants who might otherwise have made asylum claims. After the border saw an influx of Venezuelan migrants, who could not be expelled under Title 42, President Biden expanded the policy to expel the majority of Venezuelans, opening up a narrower “sponsorship” program.

  • Central America Policy

    Biden has called for “systematic change” in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. He headed the Obama administration's efforts to secure bipartisan support for a $750-million aid package to these countries. As a 2020 presidential candidate, Biden has proposed a four-year, $4-billion package of assistance for the region, with aid linked to governments delivering measurable reductions in gang and gender-based violence, improvements in legal and educational systems, and implementation of anti-corruption measures.

  • Visas

    Biden supports guest-worker programs in general and is open to increasing the number of foreign work visas that the U.S. issues every year, but he wants to promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high U.S. unemployment. Biden will support a program allowing any chief executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas to support its economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify that there are available jobs and that there are no workers to fill them. Holders of these visas would be required to work and reside in the city or county that petitioned for them, and would be subject to the same certification protections as other employment-based immigrants. Biden has supported jailing employers who hire undocumented workers or abuse the visa program. On his first day as president, Biden signed an executive order ending the Trump administration's so-called Muslim ban.

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