Amid a growing southern border crisis, President Biden on Friday met privately with six people brought to the US illegally as children and repealed a long-stalled Trump administration policy that would have required immigrants to prove they had health insurance.
The pair of actions come as a push for immigration reform legislation sputters on Capitol Hill.
The White House said in a statement that Biden “met with six DACA recipients who work in health care, education, and agriculture to discuss their experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic.”
The readout of the meeting said the participants “discussed the continued need for immigration reform and the White House’s strong support for the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”
The two bills passed the House in March with significant Republican support and would establish a path to citizenship for about half of the estimated 11 million people living in the US without legal permission.
The American Dream and Promise Act passed 228-197 with nine Republicans joining all Democrats voting in favor. The bill would benefit young migrants and refugees with Temporary Protected Status.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed 247-174 with 30 Republicans joining most Democrats in favor and one Democrat voting in opposition.
But the bills face a more difficult path in the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes generally are required to pass legislation. Many Republicans argue the bills are poorly timed due to the surge of illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border.
Biden recently tweeted in favor of the bills and called for even farther-reaching legislation that would “legalize the undocumented population in the United States.”
There are about 643,000 current beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created in 2012 by President Barack Obama. DACA recipients are eligible for work permits and protection against deportation.
Biden has broadly attempted to roll back Trump’s immigration policies. His Friday order withdrawing the 2019 Trump administration policy imposing a health insurance requirement on immigrants is the latest example, though that policy was paused due to legal challenges.
“The suspension of entry imposed in Proclamation 9945… does not advance the interests of the United States,” Biden said in a statement.
“My Administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare. We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”
Biden previously ended construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and dropped a 2019 rule banning immigrants deemed likely to require welfare. He boosted a refugee admission cap and ended the Justice Department’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossings.
Biden also ended Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required most Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while US courts reviewed their claims of persecution. Republicans credit that action with helping inspire a surge of migrants including unaccompanied minors to the US-Mexico border — with border officials reporting at least a 20-year high in apprehensions.