WASHINGTON, D.C.— A Biden administration will resurrect the comprehensive immigration reform bill put together by the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan ‘Gang of Eight’ during the Obama administration that was killed by the Tea Party Republicans in the House, and will make sure to protect family reunification and also high-skilled workers and their spouses under the H-1B program, all of which have been undermined by the Trump administration, a key Biden for President surrogate has pledged.
Rep. Ami Bera (D.-Calif.), in a media interaction with Asian American journalists hosted by the 2020 Biden for President campaign on Jan. 22, said that “(former) Vice President Biden will fall back to the comprehensive (immigration) plan that he put together, along with President Obama in 2013 or 2014 I believe, that addressed the undocumented and gives them a path to come out of the shadows, but also addressed the high-skilled workforce.”
The four-term, longest-serving Indian American lawmaker, senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed that “working with CAPAC (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus), Vice President Biden also allows us to make some progress on family (reunification) issues.”
Bera said that with regard to “the high-skilled workforce as well as the spouses of some of those folks, who are here on H-1B’s, we’ve seen the Trump administration go backwards.”
Consequently, he promised, “Vice President Biden certainly would address that issue and probably reverse some of the policies that the Trump administration has put in place that restrict some of the spouses of folks who are here on H-1B from working, because it doesn’t make sense.”
Bera, who has been part of the policy discussions and formulations being brainstormed by the Biden for President campaign, said Biden would also “try to address the issue of (foreign) students that are coming here, getting their degrees and graduate degrees, who would like to stay here and work—things like the Conrad-30 visa that allow foreign medical graduates to do their training here, and to go get a visa if they work in underserved communities and lower income communities or go to work at the VA (Veterans Administration).”
“So, there are lots of ideas like that,” he said, but reiterated that it’s likely that all of these “will be done in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, where we address both the high-skilled areas as well as the undocumented folks who are also in the Asian American community.”
Bera recalled that the comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill proposed by the Obama administration, “had roughly 80 Senators voting on it,” and that “as Vice President to President Obama,” Biden had not only worked on “not just putting it together, but getting strong bipartisan support out of the Senate, but unfortunately the Tea Party in the House did not allow that bill to come to the floor.”
He said, a Biden administration would “use that as a starting point but not an ending point.”
Bera said Biden was cognizant that immigration is “one of the biggest issues of importance” for the Asian American community, and hence would be a priority a Biden administration would expeditiously zero in on that would envisage “folks to come here legally, find work, find the education and contribute to the economy and stay in the U.S.”
At the same time, he acknowledged, Biden was also very much aware of the Asian American community being “family focused,” and how “folks who are already established here would often want their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, to join them and be part of the American dream.”
He reiterated that this was “an area, where you’ve seen the Trump policy undermine and move us backwards,” which a Biden administration would make right again.
Bera also asserted that Biden would also have a zero-tolerance policy towards hate crimes, bigotry and the xenophobia, which has risen exponentially since the advent of the Trump administration.
“Certainly, in my community, in the South Asian community, we’ve just had some hate crimes in my district against the Sikh American community,” he said, and attributed it to the rising incidence of “hateful rhetoric and so forth that’s occurred under the Trump administration.”
Bera said that “these deliberate attacks against communities of color,” was yet another reason, why it was imperative that the Asian American community have “to think about the importance of this election.”
Earlier on Jan. 12, in an interaction with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Biden, Bera said that the immigration issue was a major catalyst in influencing his decision to endorse Biden and join Team Biden, because no one had been more progressive on immigration than Biden during his 36 years as a U.S. Senator and his eight years as Vice President.
By contrast, he said, in the last three years of the Trump administration, “I think about how, as opposed to uniting us as Americans, they’ve chosen to look for places to divide us.”
“The strength of America is a society formed by generations weaving culture, traditions and religion together, which even if it makes this country difficult at times, also makes America such a unique place,” Bera said, and added, “The Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community is no different than any other American other communities--we just want to create a better life for our kids….and Joe Biden gets that.”
He reiterated that Biden “gets the importance of who we are as a nation. He understands the importance of solving immigration and starting to heal the wounds that divide us,” and added, “If there’s one person who can get comprehensive immigration reform its Joe Biden,” because he knows how to form relationships and work across the aisle as was the hallmark of his career in the Senate.