(JTA) — Among the flurry of actions Joe Biden plans to take on his very first day as president are several with special resonance for Jewish voters.
Biden reportedly plans to issue several executive orders and multiple legislation proposals shortly after he is inaugurated on Wednesday.
Many will reverse the policies of the Trump administration. Biden will reportedly seek to rejoin the Paris climate accord, enact new measures aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic (including a mask mandate in federal government buildings) and extend pandemic limits on evictions, foreclosures and student loan payment requirements.
He also plans to unveil a detailed agenda when it comes to immigration, an issue that many American Jewish groups and Jewish voters are deeply invested in, fueled by an awareness of their roots as perpetual refugees and recent immigrants.
The Trump administration pursued aggressive limits on immigration and severely curtailed the number of refugees admitted to the country. Biden has said he will make setting a new course a top priority, starting on Day One.
The Washington Post reports that Biden will put forward a plan on Wednesday that outlines “an eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status and an expansion of refugee admissions, along with an enforcement plan that deploys technology to patrol the border.”
That would dramatically change the current system and allow millions of immigrants to pursue citizenship. After a waiting period of five years, those who pass a background check and prove that they have paid taxes will be granted green cards and allowed to apply to become citizens three years later.
Under Biden’s plan, the “Dreamers,” or DACA recipients, who were born in the United States to parents without legal status, will be allowed to apply for green card status immediately.
Biden hopes to revive other programs for refugees that the Trump administration had ended, including ones for minors from places such as Central American countries and Cuba seeking asylum.
Biden also plans to start his presidency by undoing one of the first actions of Trump’s — which elicited sustained protest from many American Jewish groups. In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order that banned visitors and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Jewish groups largely expressed outrage at the move, arguing that it was Islamophobic, and joined protests across the country at the time.
“It goes beyond our experience as immigrants,” Melanie Nezer, senior vice president for public affairs at Jewish immigration advocacy group HIAS, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in November. “There’s also our historical experiences, as refugees, in particular as people who were persecuted based on their faith and ethnicity, throughout many, many generations.”
Biden will rescind the ban on his first day in office and propose a system in his immigration package that would allow the U.S. to take in increased numbers of refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria.
Several other areas of Jewish concern, which we reported on after the election in November, will have to wait on Biden’s desk. They include:
–Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, which Biden has stated he will do, before potentially negotiating a new deal with stricter limitations.
–Restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which Biden will attempt to steer back into traditional territory, with the aim of a two-state solution. Palestinian leaders have already met with foreign leaders eager to restart the peace process and are expecting the Biden administration to invite them back into the negotiating room.
–Moves to combat domestic anti-Semitism, which have renewed relevance in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, where participants displayed several anti-Semitic symbols. Biden wrote in a JTA op-ed that he plans to restart some federal programs that track right-wing domestic terrorists and ban assault weapons.