Joe Biden Is President-Elect. What Will It Mean for Immigrants?

As you almost certainly heard, the election has been called for Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20 of next year. However, his incoming administration has already made significant commitments to undo President Trump’s immigration policies. Biden has called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and says he will “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.

Today’s blog will take a look at these changes, as well as what immigration advocates are calling for to ensure a fair and just immigration system for all.

DACA to Be Reinstated

The Biden administration has already promised to reinstate the DACA program, which Trump had unsuccessfully attempted to terminate. DACA reinstatement would provide work authorization and protection from deportation for about 644,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

Creating a Pathway to Citizenship

Biden has also promised to send an immigration bill to Congress on his first day in office that would offer a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. This would include a pathway to citizenship for over 400,000 TPS recipients who were recently at risk of deportation under Trump’s policies. Our blog recently covered the legal issues TPS recipients were facing.

These immigration reforms are the exact sort of actions our firm has been advocating for as members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Most TPS recipients and undocumented immigrants in the United States are tax-paying workers like anyone else, and many of them are valuable members of their communities. They deserve the opportunity to become legal permanent residents or naturalized citizens, if they so desire.

Ending the Construction of the Border Wall

The billions in spending on the U.S.-Mexico border wall will immediately be diverted into more “high-tech” border security solutions, the incoming administration promises.

Freezing Deportations & Reinstating Obama Policy Prioritizing Convicted Criminals

Biden has promised to freeze all deportations for the first 100 days of his presidency while studying the impact of Trump’s immigration policies. Additionally, he said he would reinstate the Obama-era policy of prioritizing deportation of undocumented immigrants who are convicted of crimes.

Removing the Muslim Travel Ban

Biden has also committed to removing the travel ban on arrivals from some African and Muslim-majority countries enacted by Trump early in his presidency. Because the “Muslim ban” was a presidential order, Biden can (in theory) simply undo the order. However, policy experts warn that undoing these presidential orders could be slowed down by conservative lawsuits.

Making Visa Applications Easier

Biden’s most ambitious goal is to undo much of the damage Trump made to visa application processing. That includes making visas for students, workers, families, and humanitarian aid more readily available than they’ve been the last four years. Additionally, he will be undoing the “public charge” rule that made it harder for people who use public services to get green cards or visas.

Both of these changes will be part of a larger goal to undo policies that blocked asylum seekers, narrowed the number of refugees allowed entry into the U.S., and in general changed the role of the USCIS from a service-providing agency to an enforcement agency.

Some DHS employees even considered quitting if they had to face another four years of the USCIS turning into an instrument for stopping or slowing immigration, rather than a way for immigrants to fairly and legally make their way to the United States. Biden’s electoral victory has been a relief for many of these employees.

Will That Be Enough?

There are some Trump policies that the Biden administration hasn’t commented on, like a policy enacted in March that allows for the faster expulsion of border crossers, including unaccompanied children and people seeking asylum. Some of the border and immigration restrictions enacted ostensibly for pandemic-related reasons may remain in place, though the Biden administration said they would consult public health experts for any pandemic-related policies.

The Immigration Legal Resource Center (ILRC), which advocates for the immigrant community, is calling on the Biden-Harris administration to: end immigration arrests, detention, and deportation while working with Congress to pass broad legislation to dismantle our current immigration detention system.

AILA has issued the following recommendations to the President-Elect:

  • Issue proclamation renouncing anti-immigrant policies
  • Enact safeguards against spread of COVID-19 without scapegoating immigrants
  • Appoint leaders dedicated to reforming immigration
  • Protect immigrant populations with no way of legalizing status
  • Hold immigrant courts accountable to fairness and efficiency
  • Ensure the efficient and fair review of all work and family visas
  • End massive incarceration of immigrants
  • Guarantee legal assistance and counsel for removal cases
  • Ensure humane practices at the border
  • Restore asylum and humanitarian protections

Read more about AILA recommendations at the link.

Regardless of how much Biden and his administration accomplish in the first 100 days of his presidency, our firm is relieved to hear that they’re aiming to undo the damage done to the immigration system over the last four years. We look forward to updates on the legislative efforts to offer a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors and coworkers.

For guidance and counsel regarding your immigration case, speak with our New Jersey immigration lawyer today! Call (800) 909-8129 or contact us online.

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