Back on September 5th, President-elect Joe Biden named Cecilia Muñoz, former Domestic Policy Advisor and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council during the Obama Era, part of his transition team. Muñoz’s role as an advisor to Obama was groundbreaking: she was lauded as the first Latinx woman of color to inhabit the role of Domestic Policy Council Director. Her role in the Biden administration, however, signals a larger, looming threat regarding his stance on immigration.
Muñoz was formerly the public speaker regarding Obama’s immigration policy, and despite all the praise Obama receives for the history he made in office, he also continued the harsh history of prosecuting people who tried to enter the country illegally. While the circumstances the Obama administration faced involved increase rates of immigration, either way it’s sliced, Obama, and Muñoz, played a part in deporting over 2.5 million people between 2009 and 2014.
Immigration has been a hot-button topic for the last 4 years, what with President Trump’s heavy-handed stance towards “constructing a border wall and ensuring the swift removal of unlawful entrants,” and, of course, separating families at the border. After the negative approach to immigration that Trump took towards immigration during his 4 years in office, and the mass deportations of the Obama administration that came before him, there was a brief, shining glimmer of hope with Biden on the immigration front. And now that Biden is the President-elect? Having Muñoz as a member of his team smudges out any spot of hope there was.
Biden has appointed Cecilia Muñoz, former head of Obama's domestic policy council, to his transition team. Muñoz is best known for her role in the mass deportation of immigrants. She is loathed by the very immigration activists who delivered states like Arizona to Joe Biden.— cabral (@axcomrade) November 12, 2020
Biden’s Immigration Policy
Verbatim, the Biden-sanctioned immigration plan is as followed: “take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values, modernize America’s immigration system, welcome immigrants in our communities, reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, tackle the root causes of irregular migration and implement effective border screening.”
It’s ambitious, to be sure, especially considering Trump has cut legal immigration rates by 49%. Regardless, Biden’s platform on immigration seemed like something to be cautiously optimistic about. Ultimately, any positive immigration is better than what the United States has experienced over the past four years. However, with the addition of Muñoz to the Biden transition team, it’s clear that Biden’s ambitions may not be as proactive as he outlined while campaigning.
What’s Wrong with Muñoz?
While I want to believe the 2020 situation can be different, giving the changed climate of immigration and the proverbial pit that President Trump has dug, Muñoz’s presence on the Biden team calls into question statements she made about immigration back
in 2014. In an interview with PBS Frontline, Muñoz was quoted saying a number of controversial statements, but most notably, “as long as Congress gives us the money to deport 400,000 people a year, that’s what the administration will do.” Furthermore, she viewed the system of immigration as “broken” but noted that, “Even broken laws have to be enforced. The president has said many times that this is a broken law and it needs to be fixed, but he cannot say to the Congress, which passes laws, ‘I don’t like this one so I’m not going to enforce it.’ We have an obligation to enforce the law, the federal government.”
Essentially, the matter with Muñoz is that, at a time where deportation rates were higher than ever before, she saw the issue as necessary due to the funding provided, despite acknowledging the system is broken. The concern with Muñoz’s ideas in 2020, then, is that her input will lead Biden or others to maintain a more moderate stance on immigration laws instead of pushing for reform, and this will be especially true if the Democrats are unable to take a majority lead in the Senate.
Holding Biden-Harris Accountable
So, where do we, the people, go from here? Of course, I could be totally wrong and Muñoz’s views and opinions on immigration could’ve changed – what a pleasant surprise that would be! However, regardless of how the immigration issue swings under the Biden administration, it is essential that the people of the United States, on both sides of the aisle, hold him accountable. For this issue and for others, it is necessary for Biden’s constituents to keep him in check. We must strive to be as, if not more, critical of Biden as we were of Trump. Regardless of his treatment of the American people, Biden is still someone who benefits from the oppressive systems of power that are currently in place in the U.S. We must push for him, and our future presidential candidates, to reform and rebuild the systems that disproportionally marginalize parts of the American population.
Immigration will continue to be a hot topic, as it has always been. What matters now is what Biden, his team and we, the people, do about it.
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