Former Vice President Joe Biden argued on Thursday that Congress needs to grant legal status to millions of people who illegally entered the nation as minors because they are “more American” than many children who are United States citizens.
“We have to find a pathway for DREAMers. You know DREAMers?” Biden said. “I love people that say ‘Let’s send them back.’ Can you imagine you’re four years old, your mom says you’re crossing the Rio Grande, and you say ‘no mom, I don’t want to go, we’re going to stay here?’ Come on. Come on.”
“And these kids who come, and they end up doing well, they become Americans before a lot of Americans become Americans,” he continued. “No, I’m serious, they get in school, they do well, they contribute to the community, they contribute to the country.”
While Biden served as vice president, the Obama administration signed an executive order instituting the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program providing children who were illegally brought into the United States temporary protection from deportation, as well as the ability to receive work permits.
Granting legal status or permanent residency to DACA recipients, or the so-called DREAMers, has been a top priority for the Democratic Party since lawmakers failed to pass the DREAM Act under former President Barack Obama.
“Number one: We legalize the DREAMers,” Biden said. “Number two: I would send, immediately, an amendment to the desk of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives — a bill to the desk — that said the following: We have to find a pathway to citizenship, earned citizenship, for the 11 million undocumented.”
“Thirdly, the idea that we are changing our nature as a people by not allowing the notion of people seeking asylum here — what’s that Statue of Liberty all about? It’s about asylum,” he continued. “And the idea that I would be surging asylum judges to the border to make sure these people had hearings.”
Biden also revealed that if he is elected president, he would close down all illegal immigrant detention facilities because, he contended, they are not necessary.
“We don’t need them,” he said. “We found that when we were in office, in fact, if you decided we finally got things under control, we finally said if you have to report back for a hearing on such-and-such a date, people show up.”
However, Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan recently rebuked that claim while testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June. During the committee hearing, McAleenan revealed that 90% of recent asylum seekers have skipped their court hearings.
Biden also criticized the immigration policy that separates children from the adults that illegally brought them across the border. During the Obama administration, the federal courts ruled that the government is prohibited from detaining children for longer than 20 days. Since the 20-day window is generally not long enough to process asylum seekers, children have been removed from the detention centers so not to violate the 1997 court order known as the Flores consent decree.
“You don’t have to keep kids in a cage,” Biden said. “There should be no justification separating a parent from a child.”
However, DHS introduced a new policy last week that would undermine Flores and consequently keep family units together while awaiting joint court proceedings.