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Key Immigration Policy Changes and Proposed Immigration Reform Bill by President Biden

January 27, 2021
Anna Buskila

On his first day in office, President Biden and his administration took several immigration-related executive actions, from reversing some of the most devastating policies of the last four years to presenting immigration reform legislation to Congress. Below is a summary of the most recent changes:

Key Policy Changes Effective Immediately

The following executive orders and proclamations were issued by President Biden and are effective immediately:

  • -Revocation of the nationality-based travel bans in their entirety targeting primarily Muslim-majority and African countries. The President directed the Secretary of State to ensure that all consulates cease applying the bans. The plan is currently in works to reconsider immigrant visas denied under the ban and to ensure that no visa applicants are prejudiced by prior denials under the bans if they re-apply for a visa in the future.
  • -100-day moratorium on deportations, with certain exceptions for those posing a threat to security.
  • -Rescission of the February 2017 Trump order announcing all-out enforcement without any prioritization on removals and ordering comprehensive review of all enforcement policies and priorities.
  • -Termination of the “national emergency” declaration at the southern border.
  • -Halt in border wall construction as quickly as possible.
  • -Preservation of and plans to “fortify” the DACA initiative.
  • -Suspension of new enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as “Remain in Mexico” program, which allowed US border officers to return non-Mexican asylum seekers to Mexico while their claims are reviewed in US immigration courts.
  • -Extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians for 18 months.
  • -Termination of President Trump’s plan to exclude noncitizens from the census.
  • -Review of any pending regulatory actions for possible withdrawal and 60-days delay of effective dates of regulations that were published but have not yet taken effect, including:
    • -The final DHS Rule to End the H-1B Lottery that was published on January 8, 2021 and scheduled to go into effect in 60 days. The rule will likely be challenged in courts.
    • -The final DOL Wage Rule for H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants published on January 14, 2021 and scheduled to go into effect in 60 days. The rule will likely be challenged in courts.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Sent to Congress

The following new immigration reform bill was sent by President Bident to Congress on his first day in office and will require Congressional approval in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to become law:

  • -Change of the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws to recognizes America as a nation of immigrant.
  • -Earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants:
    • -DACA recipients, TPS recipients, and farmworkers will qualify for green cards immediately and can apply for citizenship after three years.
    • -All other unauthorized immigrants will receive a temporary legal status, including employment authorization, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years, if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics, can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021, with some exceptions for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 for family unity and other humanitarian purposes.
  • -Reforms to the family-based immigration system to keep families together, including:
  • -Provisions to clear backlogs, reduce wait times, and recapture unused visas.
  • -Elimination of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars.
  • -Elimination of discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families.
  • -Inclusion of spouses and children of lawful permanent residents as immediate family members not subject to the cap.
  • -Increase of the per-country limits for family-based immigrants.
  • -Creation of visas for immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
  • -Reforms to the employment-based immigration system, including:
  • -Provisions to clear employed-based visa backlogs, reduce lengthy wait times, and recapture unused visas.
  • -Elimination of the per-country limits for employment-based immigrants while increasing available visa numbers.
  • -Employment authorization for dependents of H-1B holders (EAD for H-4 holders) and protection to prevent children of H-1B holders from “aging out.”
  • -Improvements for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States.
  • -Improved access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries.
  • -Pilot program to stimulate regional economic development by authorizing DHS to adjust visa numbers based on macroeconomic conditions.
  • -Protection for workers from exploitation. Among other protections, workers who suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies will be granted greater access to U visa relief.
  • -Improvements to the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • -Increase in Diversity Visa Program from 55,000 to 80,000 visas per year.
  • -NO BAN Act to prohibit discrimination based on religion and limit presidential authority to issue future discriminatory bans such as the Muslim and African travel bans.
  • -Funding for state and local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and not-for-profit organizations to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and help individuals seeking to become citizens.
  • -Reforms to the immigration courts, including steps to reduce backlogs, expansion of training for immigration judges, improvements of technology for immigration courts, and restoration of judicial discretion to grant relief.
  • -Improvements to asylum, U visa, T visa and VAWA humanitarian programs, including elimination of the 1-year asylum filing deadline and increase of the U visa cap to 30,000 visas.
  • -Reforms to manage the border and ports of entry including increased resources, technology, and infrastructure and increased accountability measures.
  • -Programs and funding to address the root causes of migration from Central America. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a program to quicker unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.

With regard to the immigration bill sent to Congress, there is no way of knowing if or when it will pass. Even if the bill passes into law, it will likely contain several changes. Further, President Biden has announced additional executive orders to be issued this coming Friday, January 29, 2021 dealing with various immigration initiatives, including a full review of the public charge rules. Contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. if you have questions about the impact of these changes and the proposed bill on your immigration status.

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