Joe Biden campaigned on massive immigration reform. Is he delivering?

The Trump administration upended immigration law and processes. Its legacy is a complex web to untangle, says Susan Cohen.

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol
This is the last episode this season. Thank you for being my alibi to rope fascinating people into conversing with me. Borderline and I will be back for more in 2022. But first a rest and a reset. The format will likely change next year as I constantly iterate to find the sweet spot where good journalism meets economic sustainability. Thanks as always for your support, and happy holidays wherever you are in the world.

"We're nearly two years into the Biden presidency, believe it or not," I said on the latest podcast episode. Well, don't believe it.

I'm clearly a victim of pandemic brain. We are less than one year into the new US administration. (Two still feels more accurate to me, for what it's worth, but I understand that's not how journalism works.) I talked to Susan J. Cohen, a prominent American immigration lawyer, about what this presidency has done for current and future immigrants – and all that is left to do.

In 2017, Cohen was part of a small band of legal minds who challenged Donald Trump's "Muslim ban" in court and won a short-lived reprieve. She talked to me about the sleepless nights and the anguish of seeing her country turn against the immigrants who made it thrive. To be sure, the challenges neither started nor ended with the Trump administration; they were just four much harder years.

"Do not come," Kamala Harris told would-be migrants in Guatemala. Title 42 still excludes asylum-seekers from the United States on dubious public health grounds and the Remain in Mexico program forces them to wait outside the country against all international treaties. The last fiscal year saw a record number of arrests – 1.7 million – for attempted crossings of the southern US border. Haitians traveling north were met with border guards on horseback in images reminiscent of the worst of US history. And despite massive popular support, Dreamers – those young people who arrived without authorisation, usually unbeknownst to them, as children and lived their whole lives in the United States – are no closer to citizenship. There's still work to do. Susan Cohen breaks it down.

Listen to the full episode with Susan J. Cohen or read the transcript here.

🎶 Susan Cohen is also a songwriter who kindly permitted me to use her (immigration-themed) opus Beyond the Borders on the podcast. So I leave you with a little music and time for contemplation as I wish you joyful, restful holidays and as much togetherness as we are allowed.


Isabelle Roughol Twitter

Journalist, podcaster, media consultant. Telling stories & building better newsrooms. Writes The Lede. Ex- LinkedIn News, Le Figaro, The Cambodia Daily. 🎓 Mizzou '08, Birkbeck '25.