By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, called on Monday to grant citizenship to “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children and to invest more in border technology.
Biden’s comments were made in an op-ed for the Miami Herald newspaper ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate in Florida this week. He said Republican President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would neither stop drugs from entering the country nor curb illegal immigration.
Trump’s “re-election strategy relies on vilifying immigrants to score political points while implementing policies that ensure asylum seekers and refugees keep arriving at our border,” Biden wrote.
He said most illegal immigration cases were the result of individuals over-staying their visas.
“It’s imperative that we secure our borders, but ‘build the wall’ is a slogan divorced from reality,” Biden said.
He did not offer specifics on citizenship for so-called Dreamers, immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors.
Former President Barack Obama, with whom Biden served as vice president for eight years, used his executive authority to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programme, that temporarily shielded roughly 800,000 young people from deportation but did not put them on a pathway to citizenship.
A move by the Trump administration to phase out the DACA programme has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will announce soon whether it will consider the issue.
Pending bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress would protect an estimated two million Dreamers from deportation as well as put them on a path to attaining citizenship.
Trump also announced a plan to deport thousands of individuals who have missed a court date or have already been given deportation orders while the U.S. Congress negotiates changes to the asylum process. He said on Sunday he would delay its implementation for two weeks.
“I want to give the Democrats every last chance to quickly negotiate simple changes to Asylum and Loopholes. This will fix the Southern Border, together with the help that Mexico is now giving us. Probably won’t happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big Deportation begins!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Biden said Trump and his administration’s policies had taken a “wrecking ball to our hemispheric ties,” weakening relationships with neighbours in Latin America and the Caribbean.
While Biden did not release a detailed immigration policy proposal, he wrote that the United States is “a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” signalling he may take a more moderate stance on the issue than some of his more than 20 competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination.
White House contender Julián Castro, a former housing chief in the Obama administration, has called for an end to the criminalisation of illegal border crossings. Several other candidates, including U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have proposed dramatically curtailing the work of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Paul Tait, Colleen Jenkins and Bill Berkrot)