On January 21, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. President-Elect Biden has provided a comprehensive overview of his immigration policies, bringing about hope for immigrants, their families, and businesses that employ them.
As President, Biden will forcefully pursue policies that safeguard our security, provide a fair and humane immigration system that helps to grow and enhance our economy, and secure our cherished values. As President, Biden aims to pursue the following immigration-related goals:
- -Take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values.
- -Modernize America’s immigration system.
- -Welcome immigrants in our communities.
- -Reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees.
- -Implement effective border screening.
Biden’s Priority for the First 100 Days Will Be to Undo Trump’s Most Damaging Immigration Policies
Trump has implemented numerous policies through Executive Orders, memoranda, and regulation which many consider an assault on lawful immigration and resulted in significant stress for asylum seekers, lawful immigrants, their families and their employers. Under Trump’s immigration policies, children seeking asylum have been separated from their parents with no plan for reunification, DACA beneficiaries have lived in fear of losing their status, many lawful immigrants have been unable to return to the U.S. because of various travel bans, and businesses which employ workers on visas have experienced significant uncertainty and expenses dealing with numerous restrictions. During his first 100 days, President-Elect Biden plans to work to reverse the most detrimental policies, paying special focus on the following:
- -Immediately reverse the Trump’s cruel and senseless policy that separates parents from their children at our border and will set up a task force to reunify any children still separated from their families. According to recent reports, there are still 545 children separated from their parents and the Trump Administration has admitted it has no plan on reunifying them.
- -Reverse Trump’s public charge rule, which created a wealth test on immigrants seeking permanent residency.
- -Protect Dreamers and their families, by immediately reinstating the DACA program as it existed under President Obama and create a roadmap for their parents.
- -End Trump’s detrimental asylum policies, by reversing policies that prohibited asylum for those who traveled through Mexico or Guatemala before seeking asylum at our border, and reversing policies that made it more difficult to seek asylum on the basis of domestic violence, gang violence, LGBTQ status, amongst others.
- -Rescind the travel and refugee bans, also referred to as “Muslim travel bans,” which prohibit certain individuals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Sudan from coming to the United States.
- -End prolonged detention, especially holding children in detention facilities indefinitely, and reinvest in a case management program that would enable non-violent immigrants to await their day in court outside of custody.
- -Order an immediate review of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their home countries ripped apart by violence or disaster and create a roadmap for providing these individuals citizenship.
- -End workplace immigration raids and restore sensible enforcement priorities, directing ICE to focus on removing immigrants who pose a threat to public safety and national security.
- -Protect and expand opportunities for immigrants who served in the U.S. military by directing ICE to not target them for deportation and create a parole program to bring back deported veterans.
- -Restore and defend the naturalization process for green card holders applying to become U.S. citizens by streamlining the process to make it more accessible to eligible permanent residents and address the massive backlog of applicants awaiting their naturalization.
- -End the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which required eligible asylum seekers to wait for their hearings in dangerous and overcrowded camps on the Mexican side of the border.
Biden’s Plan Beyond the Initial 100 Days is More Proactive & Some of Which Will Require Congressional Approval
President-Elect Biden will immediately begin working with Congress to modernize our immigration system, with a priority on keeping families together by providing a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, and growing our economy and expanding economic opportunity across the country by improving and increasing opportunities for legal immigration. His plan will specifically focus on the following:
- -Create a roadmap to citizenship for the undocumented for the nearly 11 million people who have been living in and strengthening our country for years. Biden will aggressively advocate for legislation that creates a clear roadmap to legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who register, are up to date on their taxes, and have passed a background check.
- -Reform the visa system for high skilled workers, including supporting the expansion of the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based immigrant visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs for individuals from countries like India.
- -Reform the visa system for seasonal and temporary work visas in certain industries to allow workers to switch jobs, while certifying the labor market’s need for foreign workers which will incentivize workers and employers to operate within legal channels, prevent exploitation of temporary workers, and boost local economies.
- -Provides a path to citizenship for agricultural workers who have worked for years on U.S. farms and continue to work in agriculture.
- -Enhance family-based immigration by preserving family unity by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary visa to come to the U.S. until the permanent resident green card approved, by treating the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and by allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the same time they immigrate.
- -Create an employment-based immigration system that considers the country’s macroeconomic conditions by increasing the number of visas needed when unemployment is low and temporarily reducing the number of visas during times of high U.S. unemployment. This will also include the ability for cities and counties struggling to attract talent to petition for additional green cards to entice immigrant workers and entrepreneurs to live and work in their communities.
- -Exempt PhD STEM graduates from any immigration caps as they are poised to make some of the most important contributions to the U.S. economy. Biden believes that foreign graduates of a U.S. doctoral program should be given a green card with their degree and that losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to our own economic competitiveness.
- -Increase visas for survivors of violence and trafficking. Under Trump, there are unacceptable processing delays lasting many years for adjudicating applications for VAWA, U-visas, and T-visas for victims of domestic violence and trafficking. Biden plans to triple the number of U-visas (currently 10,000 per year) and will focus on providing resources to cut the processing times significantly.
- -Reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees by increasing the cap on annual refugee admissions to 125,000 per year, ending the use of for-profit detention centers, doubling the number of immigration judges and staff, and modernize the asylum review process.
- -Promote welcoming immigrants into our communities by promoting English-language learning opportunities, supporting entrepreneur incubators for immigrant innovators, pushing to repeal extreme anti-immigrant state and local laws, and expanding labor rights for immigrant workers.
- -Tracking the root causes of migration by partnering with Central American governments and strengthening regional humanitarian efforts.
- -Stop construction of a border wall and focus on smart and effective border security by investing in technology (e.g. drones, large scale x-ray machines, cameras and sensors) and improving collaboration with Canada and Mexico, whom the Biden views as our partners and not as adversaries.
President-Elect Biden Offers a Sharp Contrast to Trump’s Aggressive Anti-Immigration Agenda
President-Elect Biden’s immigration plan comes in sharp contrast to Trump’s immigration plan for his second term, had he won re-election.
By the end of Trump’s first term, he will have reduced legal immigration by up to 49%, mostly accomplished through Executive Order and agency memorandum and without having rewritten any U.S. immigration laws, according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis. This not only hurts families and employers, but also affects the country’s future labor force and economic growth.
In October 2020, the Trump Administration issued three new regulations that would profoundly change and restrict the H-1B visa program:
- -The Department of Labor’s (DOL) rule that significantly inflated salaries for H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants, making it more difficult for U.S. employers to employ them;
- -The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) H-1B rule that changed the definition of a specialty occupation and seeks to codify restrictions against companies whose H-1B employees conduct work at customer locations.
- -A rule to eliminate the H-1B lottery and replace it with a highest-to-lowest salary system distributing visas to the highest paid and likely to shut out smaller companies, companies in smaller cities, and international students and younger professionals.
Further, on October 30, 2020, Stephen Miller, Trump’s Senior Advisor and the architect of his immigration policies, revealed an even more restrictive immigration plan for Trump’s term, had he won re-election, which included further limiting asylum in the U.S., punishing “sanctuary cities,” expanding travel bans, and further restricting work visas, such as the H-1B, and even ending birthright citizenship, which is currently enshrined in the U.S. constitution.
President-Elect Biden will face many challenges trying to reverse the damage caused by the Trump’s Administration’s attack on U.S. immigration, but the compressive plan offered by the newly elected President offers new hope for immigrants, their families, and the U.S. businesses that employ them. We at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. especially look forward to helping our immigrant clients through their challenging immigration issues in a more humane, fair and just immigration system.