President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s campaign website proclaims that “Immigration is essential to who we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for our future… The United States deserves an immigration policy that reflects our highest values as a nation.”
On January 20, 2021, after Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, he is expected to take immediate action in the immigration arena. On the campaign trail, Biden indicated that he will issue executive orders to roll back the current Administration’s policies and that he might be somewhat slower to have immigration action introduced and passed by the U.S Congress.
Over the past four years, the present Administration introduced at least 900 policy memoranda and other regulations without congressional approval. The upcoming Administration intends to review, rescind and introduce new immigration rules and laws.
Below are several key issues and consequential changes we should look out for:
- Halting construction of the border wall running between the U.S. and Mexico. Raising the refugee numbers from 15,000 per year to that of prior years, in the range of 110,000+ annually.
- Fast-tracking applications for U.S. citizenship, increasing the number of immigrant visas for permanent work-based immigration and promoting comprehensive immigration reform. The last “amnesty” was granted by President Reagan under IRCA (The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986). Three million undocumented were set on a path to U.S. permanent residence.
- Granting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants a path to U.S. residence and citizenship. Restoring work permits and set a path to citizenship for approximately one million DACA applicants. The last “amnesty” was granted by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, permitting 3 million undocumented to embark upon the path to U.S. permanent residence.
- Ending the travel ban. Biden has promised to terminate the current Administration’s travel ban from certain countries. Since the initial travel ban was introduced by Presidential Proclamation in 2017, President-elect Biden could reverse the ban immediately upon taking office. It is important to recognize that the U.S. government has had strong vetting and security checks in place and in practice for many years prior to the 2017 Presidential Proclamation.
- Overhauling and reforming the employment-based immigration system with particular emphasis on the H-1B program. Intending to work with Congress, the new Administration will seek flexibility in allowing select industries to switch jobs for foreign nationals while continuing to protect the American labor market and balancing business needs.
- Rescinding the current Administration’s asylum policy including the 2018 travel ban, the July 2019 third country travel ban and the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP).
- Overhauling some of the family-based immigration categories to grant immediate relative status to the spouse and minor children of permanent residents, thereby restoring fast-track processing for family reunification purposes.
Each of these goals will require a huge effort and may characterize much of the next four years of the new Administration. Immigration has been a number one priority for the current Administration and we certainly expect to see some dramatic changes in the Biden era.