President-elect Biden has been clarifying his plans for immigration reform these last few weeks. He had previously promised to roll back many of President Trump’s policies and he has spoken recently on certain topics. We will likely have to wait for more specifics in certain areas as Mr. Biden establishes his own enforcement priorities.
President-elect Biden has stated that he will send a bill to Congress on day one of his term to allow for legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States. This is in direct contrast to President Trump’s restrictive policies of the last four years. If passed, it would be the most significant impact on immigration since President Reagan granted amnesty to millions in 1986.
Similarly, Vice-President elect Harris has commented that their administration plans to shorten citizenship wait times and allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) holders, as well as Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) holders, to “automatically get green cards.” Mr. Biden has repeatedly said he would create permanent protection for young migrants known as Dreamers.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) shields people from deportation who were brought to the United States by their parents. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) gives temporary status to hundreds of thousands of people from countries that have suffered certain strife, whether it is war, famine or natural disaster.
It appears that certain groups may have the quickest path to citizenship and this includes DACA holders and those with TPS. For those who do not have protection under either of these programs, an eight-year track towards citizenship has been proposed: five years to legal permanent residence and another three before becoming eligible for citizenship.
One news outlet states that Mr. Biden plans to request that Congress make DACA permanent. But, we note elsewhere that President-elect Biden plans to extend DACA for four years by executive order.
One of President-elect Biden’s promises was to create a task force to reunify those children that were separated from their parents upon arrival in the United States under President Trump’s presidency. Although President Trump reversed his “zero-tolerance” of prosecuting all border crossers for illegal entry, the reversal occurred after many children and their parents were already separated. The separation of children from their parents peaked in 2018.
President Trump implemented a program known as Migrant Protection Protocols that was intended to discourage asylum seekers from making the arduous trek to our borders. It required that asylum seekers wait in Mexico before being granted a hearing in U.S. immigration court. President-elect Biden has said he would end this program on his first day of office.
Furthermore, Mr. Biden has repeatedly said he will halt all deportations during his first 100 days in office. It is also expected that he will allow the annual cap on refugees to return to its previous level of 125,000, instead of the 15,000 cap that was imposed by President Trump.
In light of the pandemic, it is unclear how Mr. Biden will address the numbers of people that present themselves at our border. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control had put rules in place to expel most of the migrants who were arriving to limit the spread of the virus. It might prove difficult to shelter these migrants if they do enter in light of current pandemic spacing requirements.
Mr. Biden has also promised to stop construction on the border wall between Mexico and the United States.
Finally, President Trump issued several executive orders which served to ban travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. Although these executive orders were challenged, the Supreme Court upheld a modified version of this ban, and it was ultimately expanded to 13 nations. Mr. Biden has said he will eliminate this ban outright. It will likely prove easy for him to do so as executive orders can easily be invalidated.
It remains to be seen whether President-elect Biden will put forth his ideas in one expansive immigration bill or in a combination of bills and executive orders.
If you have questions about these, and other immigration-related concerns, we would be happy to consult with you. In light of the complex nature of immigration law, as well as many possible changes, one should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Please be advised that people putting themselves out there as immigration experts, or “notarios” (in Spanish), are not licensed to practice law, nor are they legally permitted to give advice. We would be happy to assist you.