President Biden has announced that immigration reform is one of the cornerstones of his tenure in office, and has so far announced numerous policy points, both long-term and short-term. Much media attention is currently being paid to the short-term policy changes, and this article will focus on those changes. It has been announced that in the first hundred days of the Biden Administration, the immigration system will see the reversal of many of the travel bans and immigration restrictions that were enacted under the Trump Presidency.
Most notably, President Biden plans to rescind the Executive Order 13769, which banned nationals from numerous Muslim-majority countries around the world from entering the United States. It is likely that this Executive Order will be repealed in the first days of the Biden Administration. In that light, it should also be expected that the Biden Administration will reverse any additional Executive Orders that were enacted during the Trump Presidency and will begin issuing its own orders in the initial stages of the Presidency pertaining to immigration restrictions and policy. However, it should be noted that some analysts and experts do not expect these reversals to be implemented immediately, as winding down previous immigration policy will take time. President Trump also imposed several additional restrictions on visa issuance during the beginning of the United States’ COVID-19 lockdown, such as restrictions on Non-immigrant L-1 and H-1 visas, which can be expected to be lifted as well.
The next focus of immediate change will likely be centered around the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which prevents the deportation of approximately 645,000 people who migrated to the United States as children, typically with their parents. Several Executive Orders relating to the immediate reinstatement of this program can be expected in the first hundred days of the Biden Administration, although substantial changes and expansions to the program will also likely require Congressional support and legislative change, a process that will take time. Among the immediate changes to expect is the expansion of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allows migrants displaced by natural disaster or conflict to be granted temporary green cards. President Biden previously also stated that he planned to extend automatic green cards to all members of the DACA program and people with TPS from Venezuela currently in the United States upon inauguration.
The final short-term immigration policy change that is expected in the early days of the Biden Administration is the reversal of several Trump-era refugee and asylum policies, in particular the policy that heavily throttled the number of refugees and asylees that are granted entry to the United States each year.
At current levels, the United States allows only 15,000 applicants for refugee status to be accepted per year; however, this number is expected to be increased dramatically by the Biden Administration in the initial days of the new term to 125,000 per year, although it remains to be seen how this will be accomplished logistically. However, the Biden Administration has not announced that it will lift immigration restrictions enacted by the CDC that prevent all potential migrants from entering the United States. These CDC restrictions expel any immigrants or asylum seekers after they reach the border and require them to wait in border towns before receiving hearings before immigration judges. Due to the high number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19, it is possible that this policy will remain in place for the present, if only to reduce the number of potentially infected individuals entering the United States.
Part 2 of this series will cover the projected long-term policy changes that the Biden Administration can be expected to pursue, and Part 3 will explain the factors that may expedite or slow the implementation of these changes and will include a list of all programs that could potentially see changes in the coming years.