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What to Expect Out of the Biden Administration on Immigration


Come January 20, 2021, we will inaugurate our 46th president, Joseph Biden, and with that, new proposed immigration policy. In recent statements, President-elect Joe Biden has stated that he will seek to swiftly reverse some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies on immigration, including ending the travel ban on immigrants from majority Muslim countries and extending protections for DACA recipients.

Keep in mind that these plans require more than just the Executive Branch and a lot of this policy is going to take quite some time and require a lot of effort from all of the federal government’s various agencies.  The president’s authority is limited and he can work to advocate for legislation but it will come down to the House and Senate working together to draft and vote on the bills to implement particular changes. Biden will only be able to affect immigration policy through executive actions and changing the regulations, much like Trump has done.

Outside of the sweeping changes expected within the first few days of the new administration, what else can we expect from Biden?

Let’s take a look 

(Since the list is quite extensive, we have also provided a Key Points to Take Away section at the end of this post.):

Take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values

These are immigration-related items that the Biden administration has stated it will address within the first 100 days in office.

    • Reverse forced separation of children from their parents at the border
    • End gutting of the U.S. asylum process, which has been increasingly restrictive for those seeking asylum from their home country, and restore previous U.S. asylum policy
    • Utilize government resources to send to the border to assist in the processing of asylum seekers who arrive at the border
    • End detention of children asylum-seekers at the border
    • Reverse public charge rule
    • End federal funding of the border wall
    • Reinstating DACA program, expected to allow initial DACA applications to resume
    • Rescind “Muslim travel bans”
    • Immediate review of TPS/DED programs
    • Restoring enforcement policies reminiscent of the Obama era, which focused on prioritizing removal of high risks to national security
    • Ensure ICE and CBP abide by professional standards
    • Expand paths to permanent residency and citizenship for military members and spouses
    • Streamline and improve the naturalization process to make it accessible to qualified green card holders
    • Revitalize the Task Force on New Americans to boost our economy by prioritizing integration, promoting immigrant entrepreneurship, increasing access to language instruction, and promoting civil engagement
    • Convene a meeting of leaders between North and Central America to address issues that are driving migration into the U.S. from those countries

Modernize America’s immigration system

Biden has stated that he will take action to address modernizing the U.S. immigration system to assist the 11 million undocumented immigrants reported to live in the U.S. currently in their path to permanent residency and citizenship.

  • Biden states that he will aggressively advocate for legislation that creates a clear roadmap to legal status and citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who register, are up-to-date on their taxes, and have passed a background check.
  • Making the H-2A and H-2B process less cumbersome from employers in the hope of discouraging the circumventing of the process
    • Provide a path to lawful residency for agricultural workers who have worked for years on U.S. farms and continue to work in agriculture
  • Reform the H-1B temporary work visa program to encourage high-skilled workers to come and remain in the U.S., which includes expanding the number of high-skilled visas issued and eliminating the limit on employment-based visas by country
  • Support family-based immigration by preserving family unification as a foundation of our immigration system by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed, and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate
  • Preserve the Diversity Visa program
  • Increase the number of employment-based green cards that are issued every year (currently the cap is set at 140,000)
  • Create a new visa category for cities and counties to petition immigrant visas to support the economic growth strategy
  • Enforce immigrations rules to protect foreign workers
  • Expand protections for undocumented immigrants and foreign workers who report labor violations
  • Increase visas for domestic violence survivors (VAWA, U-visas, T-visas)

Welcome immigrants in our communities

The Biden administration has stated that they are aiming for a more concerted effort at building inclusive communities and economies to foster immigration into the U.S.

  • Revitalize the Task Force on New Americans to boost our economy by prioritizing integration, promoting immigrant entrepreneurship, increasing access to language instruction, and promoting civil engagement
  • Push to repeal extreme, anti-immigrant state laws that have a chilling effect on the ability of immigrant domestic violence, sexual assault survivors, and other victims of crimes to seek safety and justice.
  • Expand labor rights for farmworkers and domestic workers

Reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees

The situation at the border is a disaster and the Trump administration has all but proposed to gut the asylum system in the U.S. In contrast to the Trump administration’s directives on asylum-seekers and refugees at the border, they aim to implement the following:

  • Send asylum officers to review the cases of recent border crossers and keep cases with positive credible-fear findings with the Asylum Division
  • Restore asylum eligibility for domestic violence survivors
  • Apply U.S. asylum laws to those fleeing political persecution
  • Double the number of immigration judges, court staff, and interpreters
  • End for-profit detention centers
  • Increase the number of refugee admissions to 125,000

Tackle the root causes of irregular migration

The most irregular migration into the U.S. occurs at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Many immigrants are fleeing violence and an unstable economy. The strategy stated by the Biden administration is to address the underlying violence, instability, and lack of opportunity that is compelling people to leave their homes in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

  • Addresses the root causes of migration by fostering greater security, economic development, and respect for the rule of law in Central America– including proposing a $4 million budget for assistance to be funneled to the region
  • Strengthen regional humanitarian responses
  • Manage migration through refugee resettlement and other legal programs

Implement effective border screening

Despite what the Trump administration has touted for the past four years, immigrants and immigrant communities are not a threat to our national security, and a border wall will not address the problems at the border, which the Biden administration states are drugs being smuggled through different means. The Biden administration believes that to “strengthen our ability to catch these real threats by improving screening procedures at our legal ports of entry and investing in new technology.”

  • Invest in better technology
  • Improve cross-agency collaboration
  • Work with Mexico and Canada as partners — not as adversaries

What are the key points to take away from the Biden administration’s plans for the U.S. immigration system?

From the list of plans and promises that the Biden administration has made, it seems that these will all benefit the immigrant community, both documented and undocumented, to live and work peacefully in the U.S. So what are the key takeaways from the plans so far:

Employment-based immigration:

With the introduction of intentions to increase the green cards issued to those filing based off of employment, this could significantly impact the waiting times for foreign nationals from India and China, who, as we have seen, are currently waiting upwards of 10 years to obtain permanent residency. This type of action would require cooperation and legislation from Congress.

If the Biden administration is able to reform the H-1B system and create a system for the H-2A and H-2B programs to be less cumbersome as proposed, this could greatly improve immigration through employment for highly-skilled and seasonal workers.

Family-based immigration:

Biden has reaffirmed his intention to reverse the public charge rule. Being considered a public charge has been a basis for which an officer could deem someone inadmissible or ineligible for permanent residency for the past 100 years. USCIS officers will continue to review the receipt of public benefits on a discretionary, case-by-case basis. These new parameters have made it more difficult for immigrants who have taken public assistance to obtain permanent residency status by expanding what is considered “government assistance”.

Biden has stated that he will support family-based immigration by preserving family unification as a foundation of the U.S. immigration system by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed, and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate

DACA Recipients and Hopefuls:

Biden has made it clear that he will reinstate the DACA program, which is expected to allow initial DACA applications to resume and to increase the EADs issued to two-year validity, as well as creating a path towards citizenship for DACA recipients. This type of action would require cooperation and legislation from Congress.

Undocumented immigrants:

Biden states that he will aggressively advocate for legislation that creates a clear roadmap to legal status and citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who register, are up-to-date on their taxes, and have passed a background check.

Additionally, he has stated he will address the gross misjustice at the border when dealing with asylum-seekers and refugees.

The list of items to be addressed in the first 100 days of his presidency is ambitious and appears that it will have a decidedly positive impact on immigrants currently inside of the U.S. and those who hope to come to the U.S. in the future. Biden’s plans for the seasonal workers and high-skill workers programs are decidedly different from what Stephen Miller and the Trump Administration had planned for the U.S. immigration system.

It will take time to reverse all of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, but we are hopeful that the next four years will be the re-introduction of the U.S. as a nation that welcomes immigrants.