A lot of changes are happening with the new Biden administration and a lot of rumors are going around specifically in regard to what the new presidency means for immigration. In the past week, all signs lead to a reversal of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement tactics, but does that mean assurance that reality will change for those currently seeking lawful status, asylum, and who are presently in deportation proceedings? District courts are already enjoining the federal government from proceeding forward with certain executive actions, and legislation still needs to be passed for substantial shift. What we have seen so far is a message from the White House-a message that immigration is a top priority. His first day in office, Biden signed 6 executive orders related to immigration and introduced a new immigration bill to Congress as a step to modernizing our immigration system and reducing backlogs.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021would create such reforms as: eliminating the one year deadline for asylum applications; allowing TPS holders, Dreamers, and immigrant farmworkers to be immediately eligible for green cards; increase Diversity visas to 80,000 from 55,000; and eliminating the 3-year and 10-year bars of entry on noncitizens who were previously removed. The bill also includes new pathways to citizenship, increased funding in border technology, and an expansion of the refugee resettlement program. The White House stated that they are willing to break down the bill into parts to make it more palatable to Congress. Time will tell how many of these proposals will actually come to fruition.
From a more optimistic perspective, let’s look at the changes with the most immediate effect: the executive orders that the President issued his first day in office:
Removals of any Liberian national who has held a Deferred Enforcement of Departure (“DED”) as of January 10, 2021 have been postponed through June 30, 2022. All employment authorization of anyone holding DED status will be extended to June 30th as well. Note, the presumption of this extension is that you are eligible and have not been denied permanent resident status under the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (“LRIF”) Act.
2. Termination of Border Wall Construction between Texas and Mexico
Revocation of Trump’s Proclamation 9844, that declared the situation at the southern border as a national emergency. This revocation leads to a pause in construction of the border wall between Mexico and the Southern U.S. The administration will also be accessing the legality of funds used for construction and the administrative and contractual consequences of ceasing each wall construction project.
Biden declares that Trump’s Executive Orders and Proclamations restricting entry of people from certain countries both threaten our national security and contravene our values in welcoming people from all faiths. This executive order immediately revokes these travel bans and orders all embassies and consulates to resume visa processing for people that were affected. The order also proposes to review previously denied visas on the basis of restriction imposed by these proclamations and allows these applications to be reconsidered.
Biden issued orders to the Department of Homeland Security to take steps to reinforce and preserve DACA. This executive order does not have much tangible change as USCIS is already processing initial DACA application as of December 7, 2020 since the district court order Batalla Vidal, et al. v. Wolf. The hope is that the agency will create protections so that the DACA program cannot be restricted in the future.
On January 25, Biden reinforced the suspension and limitation of entry into the U.S. of anyone who has spent the prior 14 days in Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), Ireland, Brazil, or South Africa. There are several exceptions for green card holders, U.S. nationals, certain non-immigrant workers, and national interest waivers. Please seek counsel and for more information. This proclamation will be revised the last day of each month and it under the control of the President to terminate it.
This order revokes Trump’s executive order which required collection of citizenship status in the tabulation of each state’s population census. It requires a report from each state with accurate population numbers, taking into account anyone who has residence in that state.
The President revokes the Trump order that led to increase raids, more stringent border protections, and the employment of tens of thousands more ICE agents. Under this order, Biden shall review any agency actions developed by Trump’s policy for increased security and take action, including issuing revised guidance to all agencies and immigration courts.
We are still far from the immigration reform necessary to provide noncitizens a sense of safety and clarity in our nation’s procedures. What Biden’s acts offer is some insight as to what Biden’s immigration agenda is and some hope that real change is on the horizon.