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Joe Biden, Central America and Immigration

The former Vice President knows that addressing immigration simply as a border issue ignores the underlying stark realities forcing people to flee.
17 Sep 2019 – 11:10 AM EDT
Migrants move north on a truck outside Tapachula, Chiapas, October 28, 2018. Crédito: PEDRO PARDO / Getty Images

Last week, once again, Democratic candidates for president attacked President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s record on immigration and border policy. But, we should be clear: for two and a half years, Donald Trump has terrorized the Latino community.

From the start of his campaign, Donald Trump insulted and mischaracterized immigrants and the Latino community. He has illegally funded his border wall with our tax dollars, after Congress turned him down and he promised it would be paid for by Mexico. He tried to turn the census into a citizenship inquiry until the US Supreme Court rejected what it politely called his "contrived" justification. He has thrown children and families seeking asylum protection into for-profit detention centers at the Southern border. And, he has put in place a new rule that would deny asylum requests to any migrant who passed through another country to reach the United States.

The horrifying sight of suffering children in cages at our Southern Border is a direct result of two sets of Trump Administration policies -- one drastically changing the process to consider asylum claims and the other reversing and defunding the Central American reform initiative crafted in 2014 by Vice President Biden. By undoing the Biden reforms, the Trump Administration has brought chaos to our southern border, caused enormous suffering and weakened our standing in the Americas.

Replacing Donald Trump as president is the best way to for us to have humane and responsible immigration policies that reflect our national immigrant heritage.

In 2014, when more children began to take the dangerous and deadly trek north to America, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to work with the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to strengthen their economies, root out corruption, and improve education and safety. The pillars of the ultimate agreement combined $750 million of annual U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle countries to reduce gang violence, increase law enforcement accountability and introduce community policing with a political commitment from the leaders of those countries to enact judicial and economic reforms that would enable families to stay together and remain in their home communities. Instead of making children and families rely on smugglers to attempt the precarious journey north, the United States provided consideration and processing of claims for refugee status within the region with an orderly transition to the United States only for approved refugees. After development assistance began to work during the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration cut funding by almost 20% in its first year in office. This past March, the Administration announced it would end the very foreign assistance that has spurred reform and stability.

When other Democratic candidates suggest a “Marshall Plan” for Central America, they really mean the “Biden Plan” that produced results when it was implemented and funded. As the Trump White House was cutting funds for the aid program, decimating our State Department and taking a hostile approach to Latin American neighboring countries, murder rates in Honduras and elsewhere in the region rose to among the highest in the world after a period of considerable decline.

Joe Biden is the best person to restore a productive partnership with the Northern Triangle countries because he was its United States architect and he’s the best able to restore trust in U.S. motivations and our willingness to be a partner who will both provide much to, and expect much from, these countries’ leaders.

Stopping and reversing Trump's disastrous policies is essential but we must do more. We need immigration policies that are understandable to the American people - native and newcomer alike - and that represent our values and interests. As a consequence of not updating our immigration laws to reflect our 21st century needs, we lack adequate avenues for legal immigration today. In the Trump era, we have lost faith in how we admit immigrants and how we enforce our laws.

Joe Biden is the right person to bring both sensibility and humanity to our immigration policies. He knows that addressing immigration simply as a border issue ignores the underlying stark realities forcing people to flee. Joe Biden has both the experience and the vision to craft bipartisan policies that uphold our tradition as a beacon of freedom for people fleeing persecution. He will create lawful opportunities for people who can contribute their energies and talents to America just like generations of our ancestors have done before with supportive families and communities awaiting them.

Our national interest on immigration requires reflecting our humanitarian values and ensuring that we continue to be a beacon of freedom for people fleeing persecution. In cities and towns across the country, we see that the immigrant path to economic self-sufficiency is paved with family support and community partnerships. Getting there requires a leader who can unite us and repair the emotional and ethnic divides of the Trump era. We need a president who has the stature and experience of Joe Biden to be a world leader and regional partner to restore order at the border and safety and security in Central America.

John Trasviña was the assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and served as president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).