HOUSTON – For nearly 17 months, the Trump administration tried to deport the mother and daughter from El Salvador. The Biden administration may finish the job.
They are being held at a family detention center in remote Dilley, Texas, but have repeatedly been on the verge of deportation. The Friday before Christmas, both were driven to the San Antonio airport and put on a plane, only to be pulled off when lawyers working for immigrant advocacy groups filed new appeals.
“I have faith first in God and in the new president who has taken office, that he'll give us a chance,” said the mother, who goes by the nickname “Barbi.” Her daughter was 8 when they crossed the U.S. border in August 2019 and will turn 10 in a few weeks. “It's not been easy.”
It's unlikely to get easier anytime soon.
President Joe Biden rushed to send the most ambitious overhaul of the nation's immigration system in a generation to Congress and signed nine executive actions to wipe out some of his predecessor's toughest measures to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border. But a federal court in Texas suspended Biden's 100-day moratorium on deportations, and the immigration bill is likely to be scaled back as lawmakers grapple with major coronavirus pandemic relief legislation as well a second impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump.
Even if Biden gets most of what he wants on immigration, fully implementing the kind of sweeping changes he's promised will take weeks, months — perhaps even years.
That means, at least for now, there is likely to be more overlap between the Biden and Trump immigration policies than many of the activists who backed the Democrat's successful presidential campaign had hoped.
“It’s important that we pass policies that are not only transformative, inclusive and permanent but also that they are policies that do not increase the growth of deportation,” said Genesis Renteria, programs director for membership services and engagement at Living United for Change in Arizona, which helped mobilized Democratic voters in the critical battleground state. “Our organizations will continue to hold the administration accountable.”