The dismantling of the Trump administration´s restrictive immigration policies began on January 20, 2021, the day that Joseph Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. Below is a summary of some of the new Biden administration´s immigration-related reforms immediately following Inauguration Day.

January 20, 2021 Executive Order: “Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities”

On his inauguration day, President Biden revoked a Trump executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” This order expanded the classes of undocumented workers prioritized for deportation, withheld many federal grants from “sanctuary cities”, and provided for the hiring of 10,000 new ICE officers. All of these initiatives have been repealed by Biden’s Inauguration Day executive order

January 20, 2021: DHS Memorandum: Review of and Interim Revision to Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Policies and Priorities

Also on Inauguration Day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set forth certain specified enforcement priorities for ICE, which it supervises. These priorities include;

  • Migrants who pose a credible threat to national security, such as terrorists (but not including most common criminals);
  • Recent migrants who arrived in the United States on or after November 1, 2020.
  • Migrants who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” and who represent a threat to public safety.

This memorandum superseded six previous DHS memoranda issued during the Trump administration. It also implemented a 100-day suspension of deportation for many migrants. This suspension, however, has run into trouble in the courts and is not in effect at the time of this writing.

January 20, 2021: Presidential Proclamation “Termination of Emergency With Respect to the Southern Border of the United States and Redirection of Funds Diverted to Border Wall Construction”

This Proclamation halted the construction of Trump’s famous border wall in the midst of its construction. The Biden administration has not yet decided what to do with the portions of the wall that have already been built. Biden has suggested that he may take a multi-pronged approach to border security that includes the existing portions of the border wall together with other physical barriers, additional border officers, improved technology, and the use of airplanes, boats, and submarines.

January 20, 2021; Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States

This proclamation revoked the Trump administration ban on immigraton from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, North Korea, Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

January 25, 2021 Executive Order: “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers”

This executive order revoked the Trump administration’s executive order “Buy American and Hire American”, which slapped unprecedented restrictions on the H-1B employment visa program. One aspect of the Trump administration executive order that the Biden administration might bring back to life is an attempt to increase the wages of H-1B workers and allocate visas to more qualified applicants. This would help immigrants who were granted visas, but might also have the effect of freezing out less qualified immigrants.

February 2, 2021 Executive Order: “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans”

This executive order operates more as a statement of intent than a concrete policy declaration. It directs the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to review existing agency actions, policies, etc. that impact immigration, identify those that conflict with Biden administration goals, and recommend ways to revoke or amend any effects that operate in derogation of these goals.

February 11, 2021, DHS Announcement: Termination of the “Remain in Mexico” Policy

The Trump administration initiated the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy with respect to Central American migrants, with the consequence that massive tent cities sprang up on the southern side of the US border with Mexico. The termination of this program means that about 25,000 migrants will be able to register for asylum interviews in the United States and wait in the US for their claims to be Biden Administration.

February 18, 2021: The US Citizenship Act of 2021

The US Citizenship Act of 2021 was drafted to be the centerpiece of the Biden Administration’s immigration reforms. Presented to Congress on February 18, 2021, it is comprehensive legislation that covers almost every major aspect of US immigration law and policy. Although much of it is given little chance to pass through a divided Congress, it seems almost certain that parts of it will become law.

Certain parts of this bill reflect a profound change in approach to immigration, It contemplates, for example, attacking the root causes of immigration by providing aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras on the condition that they work to eradicate corruption, violence, and poverty that are driving their populations to the US border.

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